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Home Entertainment ‘Just for Us’ Review: A Jew and 16 ‘Nerf Nazis’ Meet Cute

‘Just for Us’ Review: A Jew and 16 ‘Nerf Nazis’ Meet Cute

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Trying to stick to this subject to a human hummingbird like Alex Edelman might be overkill. of “just for usIn a one-man show that tells three jokes a minute, he zooms from punch to punch almost as fast as he walks around the Hudson Theater stage. (At 34, he’s part of what he calls “the overdose ADHD generation.”) If you haven’t read about his Broadway performances, you might guess from his introduction – — where he describes his usual style as “benign stupidity,” stating: This is ‘not Ibsen’, which means you will have a jolly night full of laughter.

And you are, even if he’s talking about white supremacy.

That’s the glory, and the problem, of Just for Us, which opened Monday after showings in London, Edinburgh, Washington and Off-Broadway. No, it’s not Ibsen. Ibsen is a playwright who is rarely noticed for his evocative single sentences. But it’s not stupid either. Despite its rabbi-on-Ritalin aesthetic and its desperation to be liked at all costs, the show is very thoughtful, high-minded, and comes with a mission statement. Edelman recently told my colleague Jason Zinoman that he wanted to start a conversation about the position of Jews on the “white spectrum,” rather than “a conversation about victimhood.”

He is well positioned to make a difference. Having grown up a “proud and strong” Orthodox Jew in “a really racist part of Boston called Boston,” he feels not just racial vigilance, but racial vigilance. rice field. And although he admits to having experienced “a fair amount of white privilege,” he was so alienated from mainstream culture that one year, while a Gentile friend was in mourning, his mother did not know what Christmas was until he observed it.

Hey, that’s what he caused with his Yeshiva!

The ensuing story is hilarious, but if it weren’t for the millennial accelerator social media, ‘Just for Us’ might have been just a Jackie Mason-esque Jewish humor updated for millennials. I would feel The “anti-Semitic avalanche” on Twitter in response to some of the comments he posted further fueled Edelman’s thoughts on identity-based hatred, and one evening in 2017, a white supremacist It was decided to infiltrate the gathering of.

“Jews walk into a bar” joke might start, but as Edelman expected, it wasn’t a bar, it was a private apartment. So he sat in a chair among 16 strangers with predictably bigoted opinions. By marrying Prince Harry, Meghan Markle will “demean” one of Europe’s oldest families. The diversity effort constitutes a “plan to slaughter the whites.” The Jews, the root of that genocidal weed, are “vile and ubiquitous.”

It is partly intentional that we feel little fear or even discomfort from our encounters with Edelman. He eats spinach with plenty of candied yams. Condemning the “vile and ubiquitous” comment, he admitted that he was sitting there incognito and was in no position to refute the point. He then cuts to a seemingly unrelated 10-minute narrative about vaccine deniers. Similarly, the racist disrespect for Meghan Markle is quickly punctuated by Prince Harry snorting cocaine through a rolled up “grandmother’s picture.”

Indirection is not without purpose. Mr. Edelman is building a side road to the main claim. But the discussion is far less than jokes, taking up only about 35 minutes of the 85-minute show. That percentage betrays the origins of stand-up shows. This set by David Collins also betrays its origins, consisting of a miniature proscenium to rescale expectations and black stools sourced directly from a local comedy corner.

But the real benefit is compulsive gratitude. The piece does generate a lot of laughs, including too many giggles in the comic itself, but Dog’s overzealous enthusiasm can bear to be toned down, and perhaps Edelman’s long-time director Adam Braith. had been able to complete the production job, it would probably have calmed down. (He died of a stroke in March at the age of 43.) Alex Timbers, who is credited as a creative consultant, did an admirable job of bringing the show to Broadway.

But this uptake, however distracting, is also strategic. This show wouldn’t work without the contrast between storytelling and connecting jokes. By doing “stupid little things” about such serious subjects (Edelman describes the conference chair arrangement as an “inverted semicircle”), he can focus on the bigger issues while deflecting criticism. Lay the groundwork for a denouement towards yourself. At hand.

Because, as he promised, “Just for Us” isn’t about Jewish victimhood or anyone’s victimhood. Except perhaps abused supremacist victims who are too mean and whining to constitute a real threat. He calls them Nerf Nazis. Nor is “Just for Us” (which is how the supremacists finally describe their realm) really about the white spectrum. What is at issue instead is the idea of ​​empathy, a central value in Edelman’s vision of Judaism. how far does it grow? Is it unconditional? Is it worth it even to those who are full of hate? And as it concerns Edelman specifically in this matter, is it marred by bad motives?

Because, look, there’s a pretty woman at the meeting who seems to have a crush on him. Is he the man to “fix” her? Who corrects the whole group? “I may step down as a youth support officer.”

This is moral vanity, Edelman admits. A professional witch doctor is eager to flatter the self-esteem of others as a way to strengthen their own self-esteem. That’s what makes Just for Us so much more than a Catskills club act that, like Mason, washed ashore on Broadway. It’s full of silly jokes (I laughed at all of them, of course), but in the end it’s a critique of both silly jokes and jokes.

Even if it is a very indirect route to insight, it is also a very effective one, and there is a price to pay for being liked by anyone, Jew or not, at any cost. It guides us through a process that might re-learn that it’s too expensive.

just for us
at the Hudson Theater in Manhattan through August 19th. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes.

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