By Ashley Blaker
So at long last, after performing in the UK, Israel and South Africa, I am about to finally arrive for my first shows in the most Jewish city on the planet. And I couldn’t be more excited, mostly because I’ve spent the last couple of years answering the same question on social media again and again: ‘When are you coming to New York?’ and I’m finally able to give a proper answer.
If you don’t know anything about me, no need to hang your head in shame, just fast this coming Monday and Thursday. But here’s a little about me to help get you familiarized ahead of my show on December 7th.
I am an Orthodox Jew. Some call me Charedi (aside from the Charedim, who call me Reform). Look, I wear a black hat and have payos; I have six children; and drive a minivan. If that’s not Charedi I don’t know what is.
However I am definitely not the typical Orthodox Jewish man. For starters, I am a stand-up comedian, who has traveled the world performing my shows (‘Ungefiltered’, ‘Meshuga Frum’ and now ‘Strictly Unorthodox’). I have my own show on the BBC coming in 2018 – yes, the anti-Zionist BBC! – remarkably called ‘Ashley Blaker’s Goyish Guide To Judaism’. I also have my own production company called Black Hat Productions (see I told you, Charedi) and as a writer and producer I have worked with pretty much everyone in British comedy, including James Corden, John Oliver and Russell Brand, who used to come to our house. My wife would actually make him dinner. While I was in the house I should add. One thing you don’t do is leave Russell Brand alone in the house with your wife!
So what can you expect from my show at the Gramercy Theater on December 7th? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that I have been through the show with a fine tooth comb and every British word or phrase has been replaced. Every pavement is now a sidewalk; each mobile is now a cellphone; and nappies are now diapers. I have even had to lose one of my favourite jokes of which the punchline is ‘on your head be it’. See, you don’t know what that means, do you? That’s why I have had to remove it. But trust me it was hilarious.
But the good news is the subject matter hasn’t had to be translated at all. Because as I’ve discovered over the past few years, Jews are pretty much the same all over the world. In fact when videos of me performing have been posted online, many people have commented ‘wow, I thought that was just a Crown Heights thing’. No, it turns out we triple park and leave the car with the hazard lights on everywhere! The Jewish obsession with sushi? Yep, that’s the same in Golders Green and Stamford Hill as it is in Flatbush and the Five Towns. Men all over the world go to work on the subway wearing a baseball hat to hide their kippah despite obliviously being Jewish. Shuls have the same characters everywhere, from the security obsessives to that man who thinks he’s really interesting because he always wears a bow tie Friday night. We even have the same hand gestures throughout the world for hagbaha, gelilah and opening and closing the Aron. It doesn’t matter what language they speak, go into any shul and if someone does one of those signs at you, you’ll know exactly what he means.
That said, my show isn’t just about the universal stuff. I also talk a lot about the situations that I reckon (sorry, bet) are completely unique to me. Unless you’re also a strictly orthodox Jew working at a network like the BBC. I work in the touchy-feely world of media where everyone hugs and kisses each other and yet I don’t shake hands with anyone of the opposite sex apart from my wife. I would say that this is hugely difficult, but while it is, I am grateful that these issues have provided me with more than enough comic material to keep me going for a while.
I also bet I’ve got to be the only person in the world who works in TV but doesn’t actually own a TV himself. I go to meetings and am completely clueless about the business I work in. So if I’m not trying to get out of shaking hands with women, I’m thinking how I’m going to explain why I’ve not seen the latest season of ‘Dancing With the Stars’. If it sounds completely nuts, that’s probably because it is.
Let me tell you more at The Gramercy Theatre on December 7th. For ticket information have a look at ashleyblaker.com. Cheers (read: have a good day).