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The UK’s Only Ultra-Orthodox Stand-Up Comedian: Ashley Blaker

Ashley Blaker is really funny.

This London based, international award-winning comedian has headlined off-Broadway’s “Strictly Unorthodox”, recorded a radio show for BBC, written and directed acclaimed comedy “Little Britain”, and performed stand-up on four continents. Next stop, a synagogue near you*.

Lucky for you, we scored a one-on-one interview with Mr. Blaker so you can get to know the man behind the kippah.

Oh, and if you’re in need of an afternoon pick-me-up but are desperately trying to avoid having another cup of coffee at 5:00pm (no, just me?) check out these videos of Ashley talking about sushi, driving, and music.

*Mr. Blaker will be performing at Sixth & I on Sunday, February 10th at 7:00pm. Get $10 your ticket price with this exclusive promo code for GatherDC-ers: ASHLEY.

ashley

Photo Courtesy DDPR

Allie: You didn’t grow up as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Why did you decide to become frum later in life?

Ashley: I compare [my relationship with religion] to drug addiction. I have an addictive personality, and the rabbi [at the Orthodox synagogue] who was kind of a pusher tricked me into a free sample. When I got married the rabbi gave me a free membership for a year and I kept going. I was hooked.

Allie: What inspired you to become a stand-up comedian?

Ashley: It happened entirely by accident. I’ve only been doing it for four years. Before that I was a writer and producer of comedy for TV and radio. I’ve always wanted to do stand up, and when I was 16 or 17 I performed a bit, but was too young to take it too seriously. Someone once suggested I speak at an event and I found myself getting back into [stand-up comedy]. I wasn’t thinking I wanted to do this as a career. Now, it’s all I do. Soon, I will have performed comedy on five continents!

Allie: What is your favorite part of performing stand-up comedy?

Ashley: The feeling of performing for an audience if they’re laughing. If they’re not laughing, it’s not so fun. I love bringing people together. I’ve done a lot of shows where you see an incredibly diverse group of people in one room. I did a show in Newcastle where there was a traditional Jewish audience, some non-Jews as well, and sitting across from them was a female rabbi from a reform synagogue 20 miles away.

Allie: What are the biggest difference between performing in America and performing in the UK?

Ashley: Americans are unforgiving with language differences. I know when I come to America I have to say flashlight when I mean torch, or cell phone when I mean mobile. British people tend to watch American TV so we’re more forgiving with [linguistic differences]. Also, Americans don’t tend to like puns or word play so much. But our Jewish experiences are universal no matter where i go in the world.

Allie: How do you come up with material?

Ashley: Just through my daily life, I see things and make notes. I talk about things that interest me.

Allie: Your Wikipedia page says you grew up with Sacha Baron Cohen, is that true?

Ashley: Sacha and I were at school together, and Matt Lucas who I work with. The water in my high school produced a lot of comedians.

Allie: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Ashley: I really don’t know. Four years ago, I could never have imagined that I would have my own BBC show. I’ve compared myself to a gambler at the tables in Vegas. I’ve been on a winning streak for sometime. As long as I’m winning, I’ll keep playing. One thing I’d love to achieve is to go to Antarctica, and perform on all 7 continents. Even if I’m just performing for a few penguins.

 

 

 

You can see Ashley Blaker perform on February 10th at Sixth & I. A pre-Valentine’s Day date perhaps?! Get your tickets here.

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

See DC Like Never Before!

Camp Nai Nai Nai and Sixth & I are teaming up for an ‘Uncover DC Scavenger Hunt.’ Clues and ridiculous tasks await all daring individuals as you uncover DC treasures. Using a mobile app, teams will traverse Chinatown and explore Jewish history, art, and culture in our beloved metro scene. Come with your friends and a ready-made team or be adventurous and join a team of new friends when you arrive. P.S. This scavenger hunt uses a super cool app developed in Berlin, no pieces of paper and markers needed!

Expect the Unexpected!

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Random acts of kindness? Yup! Food from a country you’ve never visited? Yup! Jewish Deli in DC? YUM and most definitely yup!

Wrestle with clues, discover historical sites, and compete in absurd team challenges!

Ever invented an odd job and tried to get paid for it? How about cheering on strangers for simply crossing the street? As you venture through Chinatown, we promise to show you a side of DC rarely explored!

What will YOU find?

Do you like puzzles and logic games? Do you like to dance in the streets like nobody’s watching? Synagogues become churches…and back again? Uhhh, yup! Several synagogues in DC have become churches over the decades and some have even come back to the tribe. We promise you will see the same streets you walk every day in a brand new light.

Camp Nai Nai Nai & Sixth & I believe that Jewish ritual and culture should be vibrant, relevant, and exciting. We don’t know how many clues you’ll solve, but we do know that you’ll find  a group of people who enjoy spending time together in this beautiful city of ours. “Uncover DC” is an opportunity to meet fun new people and become a part of a brand new community.

via GIPHY

$$$, SWAG for the Winners

Why do this? First of all, everyone that shows up will get a Sixth & I tote bag, and we ALL need more tote bags for walks home from Trader Joe’s! Second, it will be a guaranteed raucous good time. Third, the winners will get exclusive and fabulous Camp Nai Nai Nai swag and 50% off registration for Camp Nai Nai Nai.

 

Camp Nai Nai Nai is a Jewish Summer camp for adults, taking place over Memorial Day weekend, May 25 – 28, 2018, in Waynesboro, PA (1.5 hours from DC). Camp Nai Nai Nai gives you a chance to relive the curious and courageous days of youth through spirited song sessions, creative play-shops (there’s no work at camp), color wars, festive meals, and more. This inclusive and pluralistic weekend getaway is your canvas to connect with new and old friends and recharge your city-worn spirit. Camp busses will be leaving from DC, and we would love to see you all there!

 

RSVP and Invite Friends on Facebook

Sign up for the Uncover DC Scavenger Hunt

Sign up for Camp Nai Nai Nai

Check out Sixth & I

 

The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Chutzpah in Motion

Ollie-w-bible-text-lighter-border“My So-Called Jewish Life” was at 8 PM, Saturday, December 15th at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue

The story of the Maccabees is one often told during Hanukkah, but that was not the story those at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue heard on Saturday night.  The stories told on that last night of Hanukkah were similar to the theme of the Maccabee tale as they all featured the presence of perseverance and meaning.  Stories were told courtesy of SpeakeasyDC, a non-profit whose mission is “to give voice to people’s life experiences, support artistic expression, build community, and contribute to DC’s cultural capital and creative economy by promoting and teaching the art of autobiographical storytelling.”

The Saturday evening event, titled “My So-Called Jewish Life”, was the fourth annual event of its kind.  The speakers were invited by founder and Director, Amy Saidman.  Their stories, tones, and styles varied, but a pride in their heritage (whether born into or adopted later in life) was there.  The snarky, self-defeating style typical of Jewish humor also rang true and loud, giving the event an authentic Jewish feel (though the synagogue setting also helped.)

Bonnie Benwick, interim Food Editor of The Washington Post, used audience participation to tell an age old tale, all too common to Jewish hardship: how to make the perfect brisket.  Andy Pollin, co-host of The Sports Reporters on ESPN980, led the audience to gasp as he told the tale of receiving a phone call from Sandy Koufax.  Sara Polon, aka Soupergirl of the (delicious!) DC soup delivery service, recounted a camping trip gone awry with Jordanian Bedouins.  Meleia Egger, returned Peace Corps volunteer liaison, spoke of a dear friend who showed her comfort in Judaism and later inspired her to find prayer.  Hillah Culman is a Program Manager for Pro-Active Performance who met the perfect “NJB” only to realize he wasn’t a Jewish boy at all – leading them to search for an interfaith solution to their relationship.  The story told by Eliot Stein, Managing Editor of Living Social, had the room in hysteria.  He told the story of lying to impress his teacher, writing to her that he became a man when he had a Bar Mitzvah.  Here lays the catch: Stein (despite the suggestion of his name) is not Jewish and never had a Bar Mitzvah.  He tugged on heart strings as he explained how the confusion his name often causes has brought him experiences to be gained from.  John Donvan, an ABC News correspondent, closed the night.  Mr. Donvan, a three-time Emmy winner, told of finding himself at his daughters’ Bat Mitzvah wondering just far he’d go “with this Jewish thing.”  Mr. Donvan was not born Jewish, but always held a deep curiosity for Judaism.  Married to an Israeli, he found he was clinging on to his own heritage as his family around him delved deeper and deeper into Judaism.  He realized, though, that this was the “Jewish thing to do,” holding onto his own heritage.  Also, noted from his storytelling, he speaks excellent Hebrew for a goy.

The storytellers closed the night by lighting a menorah together on stage with Stein controlling the shamash in good humor.  After the show, Stein credited Saidman with being a “tremendous force” in the success of the night. “The night was great.  There was a variety and a good message.  It was a well-rounded event, very telling of the Jewish community.”  His father, who was by his side afterwards, also noted that he “experienced the same name confusion Eliot has his whole life.  It was like hearing my own story, but dramatized.”

Those statements envelope the theme of the night, and a theme of Judaism: we are all in this together, all sharing and living similar stories.  It is up to us to listen and learn from each other.  Everyone who attended the fourth annual “My So-Called Jewish Life” did just that.