Ivor Dembina: Old Jewish Jokes
- Brian Donaldson
- 18 August 2017
This article is from 2017.
Dodgy meets edgy as an old joke book is dragged out one more time
Among the swathe of contemporary stand-up types in town this August, there's an amusing spot of old-school going on in a pub backroom that's well worth investigating. Ivor Dembina started writing and performing jokes just at the moment when alternative comedy was taking hold in Britain. He was desperate to get in on some of that action, but his father warned against it, advising him to take his comedic inspiration from the big book of old Jewish jokes.
Over the course of an hour, Dembina shows just how close to the bone some of the old gear can be, though, admittedly, a lot of the time the targets are mithering women and their brow-beaten men. The narrative thrust centres around the night Dembina was drafted in to provide entertainment at a fundraiser to rebuild a synagogue's leaky roof. Trouble is that the rabbi keeps advising him about the topics that he shouldn't go near under any circumstances (pretty much everything including the Holocaust, Israel, money and sex).
In the end, you're fairly certain that Dembina will breach such censorious attitudes, but his ultimate pay-off might not be the golden moment that you feel everything is building towards. Whether you conclude that some of Dembina's material is edgy or dodgy will be a matter of opinion, but the Jewish gags book thrown at him by his father seems to be serving him well.
Laughing Horse @ Finnegan's Wake, until 27 Aug (not 22), 1.30pm, free.