Ashley Blaker is man to respect. This Orthodox Jewish stand-up comedian admits that there are confusing—and somewhat primitive—aspects to Judaism. Yet he both admires and admonishes them in his show, Goy Friendly.
To explain, a “Goy” is the Hebrew word for “other nations,” which fits Blaker’s friend, Imran. Imran Yusuf, one of his fellow comedians, is a Kenyan Orthodox Muslim. Near the top of the show, Blaker tells us that although he’d been a practicing Orthodox Jew for twenty years, “it’s very easy to just keep going and never question anything in your life because you’ve been doing it all for so long.” Upon meeting Imran and sharing a love for the Liverpool Football Club, Blaker began to explain the tenents of Judaism to his friend.
Blaker takes us on the journey by first breaking down the Ten Commandments found in the Torah and later, by giving us a more modern version. Why? Because “they clearly aren’t super practical and don’t really explain what being Jewish is all about.”
In both accounts of the commandments, Blaker stocks his show with zippy observations, sarcastic quips, and self-deprecating jabs. The 80 minute experience trucks along and it’s easy to understand why the NY Post hailed him as “John Oliver in a yarmulke.” He shares the same cadence and comic timing with his fellow Brit.
One simply wishes for a fuller examination of his friendship with Imran. The beginning narrative suggests that there will be more of a story with shared commonalities and differences-the end result being shared mutual respect. Instead, it feels as though Blaker could be sharing Judaism beliefs with any non-Jewish person.
Still, audiences leave feeling uplifted and inspired. Whether one is religious or not, it’s hard not to love someone who can still cling to his faith while keeping it funny.
Ashley Blaker: Goy Friendly is now playing at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, New York NY through February 23rd.