Monday, November 11, 2019

Internationally acclaimed comedian Ashley Blaker is returning to New York for a five-week run of his one-man-show—Strictly Unorthodox—opening Off-Broadway May 27. We sat down with Ashley to find out more.

  1. Q. So you’re coming back to New York?
  2. A. Yes, it’s very exciting to be coming for a proper Off-Broadway run. In fact the Theater Center is the only Off-Broadway theater with a Broadway address and is just a few blocks up from Times Square. That’s right, somehow this short British frummie with his black hat, beard, big kippah and payas will shortly be performing within a stone’s throw of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and The Lion King. How did this happen?!
  3. Q. That’s amazing. Such a kiddush Hashem!
  4. A. Well you haven’t seen the show yet!
  5. Q. Ha that’s true. So tell us, what can we expect?
  6. A. Nah I don’t want to give too much away. But it’s a full-length show, 90 minutes or so, because Jews want to get their money’s worth. Oh and a new kosher sushi restaurant is opening literally next to the entrance to the theater so you can have some sushi before, come and see me, then go eat some sushi after. If this isn’t a sign from above then I don’t know what is.
  7. Q. We saw you just performed a tour of Israel. How was that?
  8. A. It was a lot of fun. I did four shows in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Netanya and Raanana and they were all full. The only trouble is you can’t ever please everyone. When I announced my last US dates I was inundated with messages on Facebook from people saying “When are you coming to Israel?” Of course, when later on I announced the Israel tour, the same people were messaging me saying “But when are you coming to Modiin?” Jews are never satisfied. I know if I had added a date in Modiin they would have been saying “But when are you coming to my street?” Look, I’m playing in your living room. “But when are you coming to my bedroom? I don’t want to have to come downstairs!”
  9. Q. So when are you coming to Teaneck?
  10. A. Don’t you start! This is why I’m right there in the Theater District for five weeks. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Teaneck, Monsey, Edison, Lakewood, Flatbush, the Five Towns or Great Neck. I’m inconveniencing all of you so no one needs to feel that they were especially mistreated. What can I say, I’ll make an extra effort to be funny to make it up to you.
  11. Q. And we all enjoyed your Purim video with Rabbi Sacks—
  12. A. Ahem, Rabbi Lord Sacks. Yes that was good fun to make. His office got in touch with me back in December to ask if I’d make a video with him for Purim and, well, when a Lord makes a request like that, how can you say no?! In all seriousness, he is such an incredible intellect and impressive world-renowned speaker I was blown away that he was even aware of my work, let alone a fan.
  13. Q. We believe you’ve also been performing more for the wider non-Jewish world recently.
  14. A. Yes, I performed some dates in London’s West End and have also just recorded my BBC show, Ashley Blaker’s Goyish Guide to Judaism. That was really good fun because non-Jews in the UK know almost nothing about our religion and it’s great to be able to explain what our life is like (not sure they believe me though!!). Then when I return from New York I’ll be taking a show to the Edinburgh Festival for the whole of August so it’s going to be pretty full on.
  15. Q. So back to Strictly Unorthodox, how was it received when you performed Off-Broadway back in December?
  16. A. It was such a great experience. That show sold out with a week to go and I was blown away by the response. It was also amazing to see so much press coverage. That week I was even on the cover of Jewish newspapers in Chicago and LA as well. Last time we spoke I mentioned how I ensured all the references and language were American-friendly and I seem to have managed this, apart from accidentally saying “torch” when I should have said “flashlight” and pronouncing “amenities” in a British way (a-mean-a-ties). Apologies! It won’t happen again! Genuinely though it is funny to see how similar our lives are, albeit separated by 3,500 miles. We struggle with the same issues and so we can laugh at the same things.
  17. Q. You’re breaking new ground as a frum Jew performing right there on Broadway and 50th. Do you hope to inspire lots of other frum Jews to follow in your footsteps?
  18. A. Definitely not!! Then I wouldn’t be unique and maybe the others would be funnier than me! Anyway, there is the issur of hasagas gevul which means you aren’t allowed to come along and compete with me. Tough luck, I got here first!
  19. Q. So just one last reminder, where and when are you performing and how can readers get tickets to see you?
  20. A. So the show is Ashley Blaker: Strictly Unorthodox and is at the Theater Center, 1627 Broadway at 50th Street. The show opens Sunday, May 27, and is playing for five weeks, Sunday through Thursday, with matinees on Sundays and Wednesdays. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster or at the theater box office at 212-921-7862. I know Jews love a bargain so you should know that it’s actually a bit cheaper on the phone since you don’t pay all the Ticketmaster charges. There you go, now I don’t feel so bad about making you schlepp to Midtown!