Review: Alex Edelman's Hilarious Brush With Nazis Deserves A Netflix Special
Until now, the funniest riff on a Jewish family throwing themselves with general bewilderment into Christmas festivities must've been in the sitcom Friday Night Dinner. After seeing Alex Edelman, I'll have to reconsider.
In his 90-minute-but-so-effing-good-it-feels-like-60 stage show Just For Us, the boyish Boston-born comic recalls when he was seven-years-old, his mum announced they were hosting an impromptu Christmas for her freshly-bereaved friend. A tree goes up (in the garage, his orthodox dad won't have it in the house). There is thrilling talk of a cookie-scoffing fat man who dishes out Walkmans. And somewhere in the middle of his sixth Christmas film of the day, it dawns on the young Edelman he's being fobbed off with Hanukkah — it is the Diet Coke to Christmas's black tar opium.
This joyous bundle of belly-laughs is merely one in a feast of tangential side dishes, featuring an Olympian bobsledding brother, a sign language-speaking gorilla — and infused with a slew of Jackie Mason-calibre Jewish gags ("Judaism," quips Edelman, "is the Hotel California of religions. You can never leave.")
The main course in Just For Us, though, has Edelman spin a yarn about how he decided — on a potentially lethal whim, mind — to infiltrate a white supremacist meet-up in Queens. He swans in, eats their muffins, chats up their womenfolk. And in what comes as a shock even to himself, he starts handing out free marketing advice.
Why in the name of Yahweh would a Jewish man plonk himself in a semi-circle (or as Edelman puts it, an 'anti-Semite circle') of boneheaded nazis? Cynics would say to mine material for a stand-up show — and if that's the case, fair play to him, because the comedian has come away with the motherlode. Scattering bar stools around the stage to represent characters, he puts on what's essentially a one-man play, in which a cartoon version of himself blithely prods at the Bluto-ish fascists. Like a clueless Louis Theroux, he ponders whether he might be the hero that the world needs right now, and, more importantly, if it might be OK to date a racist if they're really, really pretty.
White male privilege; the rise of mainstream fascism — Just For Us has some heavy duty lifting to do; yet Edelman handles it with unerring nimbleness. Certainly, there's none of that stopping 10 minutes before the end, to say something shocking or profound. Here is a masterfully-structured, endlessly funny narrative comedy from soup to nuts. And while I don't keep a list of 'best callbacks ever', if I did, the knockout punchline to this show would be on it.
A Netflix special surely beckons.
Alex Edelman: Just For Us, Menier Chocolate Factory, until 26 February.
Last Updated 20 January 2023