Rachel Creeger: comedian with a perfect job

Rachel Creeger is the only Orthodox Jewish woman on the UK comedy circuit. Is she lonely?


This summer, Rachel Creeger will be packing her bags, saying goodbye to her family, and heading to Edinburgh to perform her much-celebrated show, It’s No Job For a Nice Jewish Girl.

Creeger doesn’t actually have one job, but several. In addition to comedy, she is an accomplished playwright, director and Jewish educator. She’s resident MC at her own comedy club, now in its seventh season. Her writing credits include dark comedy Staffroom, winner of the Most Recommended show at the Camden Fringe. And, within the Jewish community, she performs at communal events for organisations including Limmud and a recent fundraiser for Tzedek.

This is Creeger’s ninth trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. Her previous contributions have been diverse. “I’ve gone to the Fringe as a writer, director, producer, flyer-er and performer. The only job I haven’t done is run a venue!” This year, she’ll be attending solely as a performer.

The one-hour show draws on her personal experiences, crossing that narrow bridge between a quintessentially Jewish upbringing and life in the wider world. She grew up in Essex, attended Ilford Jewish Primary School (as did the boy who later became her husband), and her parents became more observant in the run-up to her batmitzvah.

“ I was expecting a Bat Chayil ceremony with my friends in a dusty shul hall followed by a disco party wearing my brand new candy-striped, dropped waisted puffball skirted dress but instead I gave a d’var Torah to my closest relatives and the rabbinical couples who’d been teaching my parents. That’s when I realised I wasn’t great at reading from someone else’s script.”

She went to Beis Shammai Grammar school in Stamford Hill, then a religious school for mainly unreligious kids, where she was bullied “for being innocent comedy has knocked that out of me and for keeping Shabbat and kashrut. Kids would try and force me to eat treif in the playground, and tease me a lot.” She escaped to Hasmonean Girls’ but felt like an outsider “I had a Cockney accent. I had non-Jewish friends. I’d been further east than Temple Fortune,” so become class clown. She truanted a lot, and when she told the careers adviser that she wanted to help other children who were unhappy at school, was told “I think you need to set your sights quite a bit lower, I mean really quite low”.

She dreamed of going back to school “like Sandie in Grease, with leather trousers and stiletto heels, smoking a cigarette and looking cool.” When she did return to speak to pupils a few years ago, she realised that her Sandie dream was what the school had expected, and she’d confounded it by being “the complete opposite.”

All of this feeds into her show which explores issues of identity, expectations and rebellion. It is also very, very funny. It was a near sell-out at last year’s Fringe, and Creeger has performed the show to around 3,000 people during a recent UK tour.

I meet her on a sunny Friday morning, in the beer garden of the Adam and Eve pub in Mill Hill, where she hosts her monthly comedy night. Our conversation is repeatedly interrupted by people who want to say hello. The title of her show is clearly accurate. She’s not just a Jewish girl, but a nice Jewish girl.

My image of the comedy circuit is of a cut-throat scene, at best challenging, at worst downright unpleasant. How does a nice, Jewish girl cope? And is it lonely being the only Orthodox Jewish female comedian on the UK circuit?

She is no stranger to misogynistic heckling both on and off stage, and has attended gigs where references to Jews and Israel have been “dodgy”. But she describes the circuit as a family, where people genuinely look out for each other. She only tried “proper” stand-up because a group of her fellow comedians encouraged her.

With a title like It’s No Job for a Nice Jewish Girl, you’d be forgiven for thinking the show perpetuates religious stereotypes. It doesn’t. She feels a responsibility to portray Jews in a realistic yet positive light. It’s an honest, personal and kind hour.

Perhaps comedy is actually the perfect job for such a nice, Jewish girl.

Rachel Creeger is at PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court August 9 - 27

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