Part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2020
When Hannah Arendt coined the term, “the banality of evil”, she hadn’t reckoned on the taboo- tickling might of one Alex Edelman, the Bostonian Jewish comedian who attended a Nazi meeting after receiving anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter, thought he could confront the perpetrators, and change their minds through simple charm alone.
Digging into a “white privilege muffin”, attempting to chat up a pretty Nazi called ‘Chelsea’ ( a conduit for which he imagines crafting a dodgy rom-com) and then witnessing first-hand how prosaic and dull their suburban talks were, really blew his preconceptions wide-open. Jigsaws and orange juice don’t immediately scream white supremacy…
Obviously, this is not the usual route for a thirty something stand-up comedian to take, but Edelman’s endlessly eloquent sojourns go to unexpectedly thoughtful and eccentric places.
There’s a riff on Koko the gorilla using sign language to express sadness over the death of Robin Williams, which is at once poignant and pithy. Edelman even performs the routine while adeptly using sign language.
Or witness material on his twin brother AJ’s prowess on the skeleton bob-sled (he competed for Israel at the Winter Olympics) undercut with a swift roll of the eyes and a shrugging, “Turns out it’s nurture”.
He is not only a self-deprecating wit, but his monologues sting too, and there are wider questions around identity and belonging. He gently ribs his dad when he asks why he won’t use his full Hebrew name professionally. “Because it sounds like we’re in Slytherin?!” he offers.
Wide-eyed exasperation at the state of the world notwithstanding, his timing is lovely. Pauses with eyes bulging add to the growing sense of tension, or simply deflate punchline expectations.
Whether chastising a frozen yogurt shop for virtue signalling, or simply acknowledging his own chutzpah, he’s engaging company. Even if every beat is buffed to a fine sheen, there are enough slivers of vulnerability and insight to make Edelman hugely endearing.