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17/08/2017
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The Divine Comedy

Hadas Chaimov (11/03/2016)

He is an orthodox Jew and doesn't even own a TV but co-created "Little Britain" and performs his stand-up across the UK. Who are you Ashley Blaker?

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Ashley Blaker (41) is a writer, creator and producer of BBC programmes; head of the Comedy department of the Israeli Keshet Productions UK where he manages cooperations with British actors and creators; married plus six, three of whom suffer from development deficiency; the family is Orthodox and lives in London.

If you feel somewhat exhausted reading about Ashley’s roles and titles you should know that somehow there’s more - Blaker is currently on tour around the UK with his successful stand up act.

The act, "Ungefiltered", takes a closer look at Jewish life in the 21st century or as Blaker calls it: “If your phone rings in shul on Saturday, at least have a relevant ringtone”.

As an orthodox Jew who lives outside Israel and works in the secular world he shines a comedic light on those everyday occurrences like politely avoiding a handshake with women, or “people who walk around with a Baseball cap on top of their kipa so people won’t know they’re Jewish. A buttoned shirt, a suit, shiny shoes and a Nike cap? Who do you think you’re fooling?”.


Matt Lucas (left) and Ashley Blaker. Photo: Tricia Yourkevich


Over 90 minutes Blaker hands out quick punches about Women singing and longer tales about the link between Harry Krishna and a bagel with salmon. The reaction, he says, is mostly positive but he insists on “joking on everyone’s expense. It’s the equal opportunity thing. Everyone’s welcome to be offended - Jews, reforms, orthodox…”

The only Haredi in the village
“They used to pick on me in school because I’m a Jew… and I went to Jewish school” tells Blaker in his act. Said school is Haberdasher’s Aske’s Federation in north London, where other successful comedians, Sacha Baron Cohen and Matt Lucas, were schooled.

“Matt and I went to school together and befriended there” says Blaker, “At 17 Matt started doing standup in clubs and invited me to join him. Nothing came out of it and I went on to get higher education in Oxford and Cambridge”.

Post uni Blaker had a tough time finding a job until a former teacher suggested he read the classified page in the Guardian. “I saw a wanted ad beginning with ‘Are you funny’ for a junior production role in the BBC’s comedy department”, he remembers.

Blaker submitted his application and a week before his first day there he stumbled upon Matt Lucas and suggested a collaboration. The rest is history, or should we say hysteria.

The two co-created on the the kingdom’s funniest and beloved comedies in Little Britain. The show, which began as a skit show on the radio, got Blaker some local recognition and the establishment nod. For him, however, it was a divine coincidence: “I just happened to land a job in the BBC, and just happened to meet Lucas walking down the street. That was god sent”. Since, Blaker collaborated with Lucas on various other shows like The Matt Lucas Awards and others.


Avoided confrontation and became an orthodox Jew. Blaker


Kosher Humour
Today Blaker is a model orthodox Jew with the usual characteristics from head to toe. The home he grew up in, however, was just traditional, “we used to go to shul and then come home and watch some telly”.

When he got married the happy couple got a free synagogue membership "and like proper Jews, we took them up on it".

The couple would come only to Shabbos prayers until one day: “the Rabbi took me aside and asked me if I could make it the next day as well as they were short for Mincha. I agreed and on Mincha he said they were short the next day too. I agreed to come again and so I showed up every day. You could say I became orthodox because I avoid confrontation”.

Blaker has comeback to stand up after more than a 20-year hiatus. ״Three years ago one of the Rabbis called me and asked me to be the speaker in the post Shabbos meal (which is accompanied by conversation and singing. H.C). It was a combination of a speech and stand-up about an orthodox Jew who works on Telly only he doesn’t own one.”

This lecture was a success and Blaker got more and more opportunities to do that until he realised he “had the most fun making people laugh and wanted to take it to the next level”.

Blaker’s act will most likely appeal to Jews only. No gentile will get the mezuzah jokes and honestly most secular Jews will also be facing problems getting some of the terms, pronounced in a Yiddish accent and Biblical Hebrew.

If the last time you visited shul the Rabbi held a knife and mum looked a tad pale - you might want to skip this one. If on your last visit you were hit with candy from the balcony - you just might enjoy yourself but if you’re best buds with the shul Rabbi - you’d probably laugh out loud.

On the other hand, a woman in Leeds once told Blaker that as long as he is on stage, the messiah would rather stay away, so who knows.

More info and coming shows: www.ashleyblaker.com

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