American comedian and writer-performer Alex Edelman is bringing his award-winning show, Just For Us, to the Menier Chocolate Factory. Alex joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about the show, his creative process, what shapes his comedy, and much more.
Just For Us begins previews on 11 January, ahead of an opening night on 18 January and performances until 26 February 2023. Extended six times Off-Broadway, the production was an NY Times critic’s pick, and received 2022 Drama Desk, Off-Broadway Alliance and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations. For ticket info – www.menierchocolatefactory.com
You are bringing your award-winning show Just For Us to the Menier Chocolate Factory. Can you give us a taste of what the show will be like and what audiences can expect?
The show is full of jokes and stories and there’s a meeting of white nationalists in Queens and a gorilla that can do sign language and my Olympian brother. Not live, but I’ll talk about them and such.
What excites you most about bringing the show to the UK?
The show got started there. Early versions of the show were at the Soho Theatre, and there was a tour that was truncated by the start of COVID where it got pulled apart and put back together. It’s the kind of birthplace of the show, and to be able to bring everything back home for a last go around is just the best case scenario for me, if I’m being honest.
What was your creative process like for putting Just For Us together? Any inspirations to share?
It was a bunch of comedians that helped me put everything in the right places and offered little insights and jokes. Comics like Bridget Christie and Josie Long are huge inspirations – Bridget urged me to do a show that was a smidge more insightful, and Josie, who has always done that, listened to me tell the story very early on and offered notes and encouragement. No one has been bigger than my director, Adam Brace, or my NYC producer, Mike Birbiglia, who have given the show major kicks and shoves in better directions.
Can you tell us more about your background and what has shaped your style of comedy?
Orthodox Jewish fiction-obsessed, comedy-loving, sports-fan Bostonian. What shaped my style of comedy was a joke-heavy but socially regressive East Coast comedy club stand-up tradition and then the thoughtful solo shows characterized by Edinburgh and stalwarts like Nish Kumar, John Robins, James Acaster, Josie, Bridget, Alfie Brown, and many others.
Do you find any differences performing for UK crowds? And if so, how do you tweak your shows for them?
I don’t really tweak. Every audience is different, so I’m not sure. But I’ll say that UK audiences tend to be engaged and thoughtful.
You served as the head writer and executive producer of Saturday Night Seder, a star studded 70-minute special, posted on YouTube, that has so far raised $3.5 million for the CDC Foundation (COVID-19) Emergency Response Fund. How do you reflect on that project and the incredible impact its had?
OH MY GOSH. Well, it was the most fulfilling creative experience. So many of the people involved have become close close close friends. Particularly Benj Pasek, my collaborator and wonderful pal. It was his brainchild, conceptually. Honestly, it’s really nice because Jonathan Sacks – who was the UK’s Chief Rabbi – always stressed the importance of communicating what it’s like to be Jewish. The experience of being Jewish. The day-to-day decisions and stresses around it. The traditions and values that mean so much to you. I think SNS communicated a lot of that in a way that was really propulsive and entertaining and filled with joy, and people from all different denominations of Judaism and various religions have told me how much they’ve enjoyed it. I’m so proud of it and couldn’t be happier with its place in the world and my small role in it. I’m so pleased that it found an audience. It raised a lot of money for a good cause.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
More good work, hopefully!
ALEX EDELMAN – JUST FOR US
11 January – 26 February
Press night: 18 January
Evening performances at 7.30pm, matinees at 3pm
Box Office:020 7378 1713