Jokes that everyone's heard before are always the hardest to make funny, so spare a thought for that most venerable of comedian: the 'Jewish comic' who has decades of comedic folklore and pub banter just waiting to be repeated. While a couple of Ivor Dembina's lines were met with knowing groans from his small audience, the vast majority had it veering between childish sniggers and romping guffaws.
The success of the performance was primarily down to Dembina's delivery, each quick-fire gag delivered with the stereotypical panache natural to this veteran of the Jewish comedy scene. Even a Gentile like myself could shrug along with Dembina's dejected and self-deprecating characters (almost always named 'Moishe' or 'Harry'). Expect staples of the Jewish repertoire - possessive mothers and domineering wives feature prominently.
If this all sounds a bit old-fashioned - especially in a modern world of edgier, more observational comedy - that’s because it is. However, Dembina is too thoughtful a comedian to simply fire volley after volley of one-liners at his audience. Indeed, while much of the show consists of self-contained jokes, Dembina's whole act is carefully held together by a sprawling anecdote centred around a charity gig he got at a London synagogue.
Apparently, as he waited to go on stage, the local rabbi warned Dembina to avoid contentious issues (like the Holocaust and Israel), giving him the perfect excuse to entertain his current audience with cutting jokes about these very same controversies. The more abrasive gags are perhaps unsurprising considering Dembina is a prominent Jewish critic of Israel but prove an elegant contrast. I would urge you to go and see what is an excellent show, if only to lighten Dembina’s God-given burden by a little bit.