Ultra-Orthodox comedian Ashley Blaker is in high demand. But he’s made sure to slip four shows across Israel next month into his busy schedule. Those are after a show at London’s Soho Theatre, before recording a new BBC radio show and before he takes up residence for 35 consecutive gigs in New York’s off-Broadway Gramercy Theater.
It turns out the kippa-clad, tzitzit-wearing, joke-cracking Blaker is the hottest thing since sliced bread – or Jackie Mason.
“It wasn’t easy, it had to be squeezed in among other stuff, but I really wanted to make sure I did come to Israel,” said Blaker in a recent phone interview. “People are always saying: ‘When are you coming to Israel, when are you coming to Israel?’”
And the residents of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Ra’anana and Netanya will be thrilled at the opportunity to catch one of his four shows here in March on his “Meshuga Frum” tour, where he pokes fun at the practices observant Jews hold dear.
“‘Meshuga frum’ [crazy observant] is the kind of phrase you hear all the time – this idea that basically anyone – doesn’t matter how frum you are – anyone who does more than you is meshuga frum and anyone who does less, they’re like complete goyim,” Blaker said. “All Jews think that what they are is the actual ideal perfection of what you should be doing.”
To that end, the comedian cracks jokes – at his own expense – about many of the stringencies people take on.
“I never listen to women singing, of course,” says Blaker in his act. “I never listen to Bread during Pesach... I won’t listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Smashing Pumpkins before thoroughly inspecting them for bugs. I only listen to The Sex Pistols for two weeks out of every month and even then I insist on referring to them as the Marital Relations Pistols. What can I say, I’m meshuga frum!”
Last time he was in Israel, Blaker performed his “Ungefiltered” act, and he promises that Israeli audiences will hear an all new show.
“There is not one joke I’m telling, there is not one minute of this new show in Eretz Yisrael that I did last time,” he said.
And that’s no easy feat for Blaker, who has several different acts running through his head and is prepping many other shows.
In June, the comedian will take up residence at the Gramercy Theater in Manhattan for 35 consecutive shows. And he was thrilled to find out that a kosher sushi restaurant would be opening soon next door. After all one of Blaker’s most viral bits involves the Jewish obsession with sushi.
“When did sushi suddenly become a Jewish food?” he asks. “It’s the weirdest thing. When I was growing up, Jewish food was prepared by an overweight sweaty man with a long beard bobbing in and out of the chicken soup. Now Jewish food is prepared by a Japanese man who stands cutting raw fish all day.”
So news of a kosher sushi neighbor made Blaker realize it was all meant to be.
“It couldn’t be more perfect – you can have a little bit of sushi before my show, you can have a little after,” he said. “It was bashert.”
For that show, Blaker has had to adapt his jokes and references for an American audience – no more buggy or football or mobile – it’s stroller and soccer and cellphone. And he’s made sure this time that his Israel show will cater to the Americans in the audience as well: “They want it on their terms in their language with their references.”
But Blaker has another show making waves as well, his “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Judaism” act. He performed a couple gigs at the Soho Theatre in London and will be taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August this year.
“It’s for a non-Jewish audience, it’s a very kind of personal show,” he said. “It’s more about me and my journey, how I became religious and why I’m still religious.”
And that theme will also be part of his upcoming BBC radio show, Ashley Blaker’s Goyish Guide to Judaism
, which he is taping in March to air in May. And soon he’ll be performing his first ever shows in Canada as well.
“Things have really taken off,” he said. “It’s just non-stop now.”
And we’re just glad he found time for the Holy Land.Blaker will be performing on March 5 in Jerusalem, March 6 in Beit Shemesh, March 7 in Netanya and March 8 in Ra’anana. More information is available at ashleyblaker.com/israel.