Yisrael Campbell is just your average Irish, Italian, Catholic, American, recovering alcoholic, Reform Jew, Conservative Jew, Orthodox Jew, husband, father of four, comedian. Or so his blurb states. Furthermore he is an adept and likeable performer who has lived a fascinating, varied life. None of this, though, stops his performance feeling a little like he's running through the motions.
Of course, it is impossible for a show about faith to detach itself completely from it's scripture, but Campbell's laid back nature and shrugging affability create a comfortable and easy place to inhabit regardless of one's personal beliefs
The Guardian once theorised that if Lenny Bruce had procreated with an Orthodox Jew, Campbell would be the result. This is an astute comment on the style and content of Campbell's humour. He jokes about the titular circumcision (which he has had done three times – cuing much leg crossing from the chaps in the audience) and how the able bodied of Jerusalem, where he now lives, use disabled parking spaces. He expertly weaves flat-out gags with sentiment and pathos and he speaks candidly about being a teenage alcoholic and touches upon the ongoing conflict in his home country (an issue which, with current affairs as they are, demanded addressing earlier on and a little more thoroughly. I imagine as an Israeli resident he is asked constantly for his opinion on Gaza, but, even so, I found it difficult to subdue this thought and nagging question for the majority of his show).
What Campbell cleverly achieves is a level of separateness from his beliefs and his show. He is obviously a man with a spiritual yearning, a yearning that has seen him travel the world and covert three times, but his matter of fact descriptions and anecdotes make his show enjoyable even for the more steadfast atheists out there. Of course, it is impossible for a show about faith to detach itself completely from it's scripture, but Campbell's laid back nature and shrugging affability create a comfortable and easy place to inhabit regardless of one's personal beliefs.
However, this is still a lack lustre performance. Maybe it's because Campbell is used to bigger crowds and was apathetic with his Edinburgh audience or maybe the jet-lag is still wearing off but either way – a bit more gusto wouldn't have gone amiss.