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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ashley Blaker poses with some furry friends. (Credit: Ashley Blaker)

Chonon Blaker is a man from the UK who lives his life by day as a religious Haredi Jew and a husband and father of six children. At night, however, he comes alive through his character Ashley Blaker, an internationally acclaimed stand-up comedian with a feisty side who loves to make people laugh. While many people may find satisfaction in a successful day at the office, for Blaker there is no more satisfying sight than bringing a crowd to tears of laughter.

In an interview with The Jewish Link, Blaker shared that he wanted to be a comedian ever since he was a high school student. Whereas other students would comment on how they had dreams of becoming a doctor or lawyer, Blaker had aspirations to do something that would always put a smile on peoples’ faces. These feelings led to him develop a stand-up act.

Blaker began performing in small clubs at age 16, and from there things only got bigger as he honed his craft. Though Blaker did take a break for a number of years after graduating from school to seek employment as a writer, he describes how his return to stand-up comedy was akin to rediscovering a lost passion. “I had almost forgotten how much fun it was, saying something funny and making people laugh. It was addictive!” Blaker explained. Nowadays, Blaker performs in large theaters, many of which are sold out for his appearances.

Contrary to many comedians of this era, Blaker performs routines that are purposely kept very clean and kosher. Blaker shared that the reason for this is because “the best comedians aren’t putting on an act. They’re true to themselves. Everything I talk about, with some comedic exaggeration of course, is real and my persona is real. That’s really me.” Blaker went on to comment: “I don’t curse in my real life so I’m not going to curse on stage. If you made me curse on stage it wouldn’t sound right, because I’d be putting on an act.” As a result of this creative decision, his performances are family friendly and can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages. While many would see this as a downside, Blaker sees this clean side of comedy as an opportunity to explore areas that are typically left unchecked.

According to Blaker, one doesn’t need to be a religious Jew to enjoy his act. In fact, Blaker loves how comedy can bring people together, regardless of their religious beliefs, citing an experience where he performed for a mixed group of ultra-orthodox and reform Jews who all could have a laugh together. “I’m very proud of the fact that I perform for all kinds of Jews,” Blaker shared, “from the completely unaffiliated to the very observant. Humor can actually bring people together; they can all enjoy it together. There’s something really special in that.”

When it comes to Blaker’s inspirations, he lists his two all-time favorite American (Jewish) comedians as Tom Lehrer and Woody Allen. He has cross paths and worked with multiple famous modern British comedians, such as James Corden, John Oliver and Russell Brand. Brand would even come to visit Blaker in his house, sometimes even staying over for dinner. Blaker explains that all of the comedians with whom he has worked have had an impact on him.

According to his website, Blaker has had two successful sold-out comedy tours in the UK, named “Ungefiltered” and “Meshuga Frum,” and has performed in Israel and South Africa. In addition to his work in comedy, Blaker has also worked as a writer and producer for radio and television programs in the UK. Blaker has an upcoming BBC Radio 4 show, ‘Ashley Blaker’s Goyish Guide To Judaism’ under his production company, Black Hat Productions, which will air in 2018. Additionally, Blaker is set to give an Off Broadway performance in New York City on December 7 in The Gramercy Theater.

If you would like to learn more about Blaker and his previous work, follow him on Twitter at @ashleyblaker or visit his website at http://www.ashleyblaker.com/

To purchase tickets for his upcoming show in New York, visit https://concerts1.livenation.com/event/00005328EE03546D?f_PPL=true&ab=efeat5787v1

By Adam Samuel

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. When he isn’t busy reading the daily news, he divides his time between managing his blog, adamssoapbox.blog, and gradually learning how to play piano.