Stripping, snacking and swinging chickens

At this year's Edinburgh Fringe, Jewish women are setting the comic agenda.


Jewish women are often the butt of the joke; the smothering Jewish mother, or the spoiled Jewish princess. But, at this year's Edinburgh Fringe, Jewish women are setting the comic agenda.

Take Lucie Pohl, 30, a German-born New Yorker who cites Sarah Silverman as her main influence. She's inspired by comics who: "talk about their Jewish culture and what it means to them. I've heard of Chasidic women who've left their community and gone into comedy.

"Jews have a very dry humour, a sense for the self-deprecating, for seeing the funny in the dark."

"It's a big time for women right now, and for Jewish women. Audiences don't just want to see the straight white guy."

Marital break-up is one theme of Pohl's show, and it dominates another - Jess Robinson: Impressive. Robinson, 33, has a band playing Hava Nagila as she describes her "Jewish stages of grief", including snacking, haggling and public crying. "I've eaten and drunk my way through my divorce, with more tequila than Palwin," she says.

Funny girls

Andrea Hubert: Week
Gilded Balloon Counting House Sitting Room until Aug 29
Candy Gigi: If I had a Rich Man
Heroes @ The Hive until Aug 28
Jess Robinson: Impressive
Pleasance Courtyard (Forth) until Aug 28
Juliet Meyers: This Flipping Rescue Dog has Ruined my Life
Laughing Horse @ Southside Social, until Aug 14
Lucy Pohl: Apohlcalypse Now!
Gilded Balloon Teviot until Aug 29
Lynn Ruth Miller and Larah Bross: Gran Slam
The Stand Comedy Club (Stand 5) until Aug 14

"I'm proud of my roots and, like a lot of Jewish comedians, I like to take the mickey out of it."

North Londoner Andrea Hubert, also sees the funny in the dark, in her case, depression, mood disorder and anxiety.

Hubert, 35, is influenced by Woody Allen but says: "I don't believe I go in for classic Jewish neuroses. I'm not trying to create a caricature - I'm just being myself. For me, being Jewish is just an added string to your bow. It's not the whole thing.

"I was told when I started I should sell my Jewishness and be a Jewish princess, but that's not me. I don't want to create a persona that's not real. I don't sell myself as a Jewish comedian. I sell myself as a comedian."

She does talk a lot about her mother. "I find it entertaining to have a figure I can blame something on - but she's a wonderful woman. Mothers are a classic Jewish thing."

Performing for a Jewish audience, she says, "is like doing a gig in front of a lot of strict parents. They're notoriously tough and you've got to be bold. They sit there with their hands crossed. They're very attentive, but they will not give up their laughs easily."

Sitting with your hands crossed is not an option at Candy Gigi's outrageously funny show, If I had a Rich Man, not least because you might be hauled from the audience and made to wear a false beard, ringlets and a black hat, swinging a (dead, non-kosher) chicken around your head.

Gigi, aka Candy Markham, a former pupil of King Solomon High school, took seven months to write the anarchic satire on the search for a Jewish husband.

"There's so much comedy in the pressure of being a Jewish girl," she says after her show, while packing a case with assorted masks, a tunic with flopping breasts, a clown's costume and a whipped cream spray can.

"I remember I had a boyfriend when I was seven and telling my mum. She said: 'Is he Jewish?'" He wasn't

"There's so much pressure, said and unsaid, to find a Jewish man. And there's that fear and embarrassment that you won't find them when all the pretty girls in the synagogue have…"

Markham, 27, cites Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean as one of her few comic influences. Her day job is working with children with special needs. "This is a dream - I'd like to do it full-time," she says.

Larah Bross, who is performing with Fringe veteran Lynn Ruth Miller in Gran Slam, says she mines her Jewishness for her performances.

"I think my Jewish upbringing makes me outgoing, calling things out for what they are without feeling too much for whom I'm offending, not that I'm intending to offend anyone.

"I joke about complaining, about the embarrassment I cause, about people who are not used to having Jews around.

"There are a bunch of bacon jokes as well.

"The Jewish thing helps me stand out, it gives me that extra edge. As soon as you say 'Jews', you feel the audience shift: 'Where's it going? Are we allowed to laugh at this?'"

There's very much a sense of "where is this going" when Lynn Ruth Miller, 82, starts stripping towards the end of Gran Slam. Miller is doing at least three Edinburgh shows a day, the oldest performer there.

"Jewish people are funny. When I tell a joke it's Jewish-biased. I'm very conservative, interested in the opera and the theatre and art," she says.

Juliet Meyers performs her show This Flipping Rescue Dog has Ruined my Life, alongside Homer, her insecure Portuguese podengo rescue dog.

"I'm quite an anxious person, so I wanted a dog to relax me," says Meyers.

What is it like to be a Jewish female comedian?

She winces: "You wouldn't say 'female doctor' or 'female banker'. The job is a comedian.

"I don't think my sense of humour is really dictated by anything Jewish - there is the classic Jewish thing of slightly playing the underdog, of feeling sorry for yourself but being smart at the same time.

"I'm a big fan of Seinfeld; clever stuff. I always think of Jewish comedy as being very clever."

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