Life & Culture

The power of humour and how to spot a Jew


So my tour is pretty much at an end and, as I approach the final show at JW3, I can't help but look back and wonder what I've discovered about Jewish Britain. After all, in the past few months I've visited 40 different communities and performed in front of well over 5,000 people so I reckon I've seen a pretty good cross-section of Anglo-Jewry. Only the Chief Rabbi will have been to more shuls in this time, although he didn't have to worry about getting heckled. Or at least I hope not.

So what have I learned?

1. We are obsessed with security. Perhaps this reflects the world we live in but I had to wonder if we'd gone too far when I arrived at Mill Hill Synagogue for a sound test and overheard a CST unit leader briefing his 10-man team as though it was the start of a covert military operation. "Ask them why they bought tickets. If they can't reply, take them down!" I feared for my audience!

In Sheffield, they went even further and wouldn't let me in the building until they'd searched through my bags. "Look, just because you're wearing a kuple and tzitzis doesn't mean anything," the man on the door said. "Fair enough," I replied, "but look at that poster behind you. That's me!" To which he shot straight back: "it's amazing the lengths that some people will go to". I thought: that would be some terrorist. Not only is he walking around with a beard and payos, he's organised a 40-date synagogue tour and persuaded the JC to sponsor him doing it!

2. There is nothing we love more than spotting other Jews. I have a routine about an old lady who told us that when we she met someone and wasn't sure if they were Jewish, she would shout out the Yiddish word Undzerer (one of us) and see what the other person did. But this was positively subtle compared with a woman at my Radlett show who started heckling to share her trick. "I just go up to them and say 'Are you?' ''I love this and thought about using it myself, but then it struck me that I work in the media and if went around enquiring "are you?", people may get the wrong idea about me.

Ungefiltered CD Giveaway!

Enter for a chance to be one of five lucky winners to receive a Ungefiltered show CD from Ashley Blaker's comedy tour! For your chance to win click here

3. We are capable of laughing at ourselves and do it better than any one else. These are clearly troubling times in Jewish Britain and critics appear to be coming out the woodwork on an almost hourly basis. In fact, if you haven't tweeted or posted something antisemitic on Facebook then I'm not sure the Labour Party is the place for you. But, when we get together, we can forget it all and laugh, not just at our critics but at ourselves. My show covers all sides of Judaism and I am immensely proud to have performed a tour that has attracted an incredible cross-section of Jews, from Stamford Hill Chasidim to the completely unaffiliated. I did one show in an Orthodox synagogue for which a Reform synagogue made a block booking of 44 tickets. Even more incredibly, I performed a show in Newcastle at which there were members of the ultra-Orthodox Gateshead community sitting in the same row as the female rabbi of Darlington Reform. It just goes to show the power of humour because I can't think of any other time such varied strands of Anglo-Jewry have come together.

4. More than anything, at the risk of sounding overly sentimental, I have discovered what amazing communities we have in this country. Living in Edgware, it's all too easy to think Jewish life is moribund outside of North London and North Manchester. However, I challenge anyone to visit Brighton, Hull, Sheffield, Reading and many other places and not be moved by the wonderful, friendly people who are clearly so committed to their synagogues and have such a strong connection to Judaism. North, South, East, West; black velvet kuple, knitted kuple, no kuple. There can't be a more diverse but cohesive community and I feel privileged to have entertained them.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive