Perversely, the deepening anti-Semitism row in the Labour party might actually work out quite well for observant Jew Ashley Blaker, as it makes this hour, in which he explains his own personal conversion to ultra-Orthodoxy, ticket-floggingly pertinent. It’s slideshow comedy in the main, Blaker using visual aids to educate the Gentiles among us on the “crazy” (his word, not mine) world of the Orthodox Jew.
Despite being from north of London, educated at the exclusive Haberdashers’ Aske’s, Blaker was once a hardcore Liverpool fan, travelling around Britain and beyond for even insignificant matches. But he’s long since swapped the terraces for the synagogue. So much so, it’s hard to square the drunken 90s lads-on-tour pics he flashes up with the kippah-wearer before us. He characterises this renewal of his Judaism as a drug. Where once he was obsessed to the point of addiction with football, he’s replaced it with religion.
The show’s more amusingly educational than rip-roaringly hilarious. On the way, he uses all the obvious stereotypes to get the cheap gags that non-Jews couldn’t. Big noses and money get a mention; he even works in a Hitler salute. Even delivered by someone with the right to use them, they do feel tired. A few others are showing their age too. There won’t be many other comics wheeling out Jimmy Savile gags this year, for instance.
All the same, Gentiles will learn a lot, and Jews will no doubt feel the flash of recognition at Blaker’s experiences. There’s a segment about the orthodox Jewish prohibition on TV and other media – the irony being that Blaker is a TV producer – and another on the difficulties of networking with women in the industry when you’re forbidden from shaking their hand. Both sections slightly outlast the amount of humour to be had from them, but they’re definitely a distinctive experience.
He gets in one dig at Corbyn, almost because he has to, given the topicality, and there’s the occasional dip into Middle East tensions. Confrontation isn’t the order of the day here though. It’s a pleasant, friendly hour, sharing personal experience in an amusing way. With anti-Semitism worryingly big news again, it’s worth being reminded what Judaism’s all about.