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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Comedian Alex Edelman quips about ongoing tour, creative process at NU Hillel

Illustration by Samantha Powers
Alex Edelman is a stand-up comedian from New York City.

Laughter rang through Northwestern Hillel on Tuesday night as comedian Alex Edelman shared insights into his stand-up show “Just for Us,” his creative process and the comedy world.

His third solo show, “Just For Us,” is now on tour after a critically acclaimed Broadway run that finished at the end of August 2023. The show has been nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Drama Desk Award and won a Herald Angel Award. It explores Edelman’s experience attending a meeting of white nationalists in Queens, New York, after receiving a series of antisemitic threats online. 

“My show is about assimilation, so what’s it like to be Jewish in a world where your Judaism is something that people would prefer to be taught,” he said.

After he wrapped up the talk to uproarious applause from dozens of NU community members, Edelman rushed off to the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, where he’s parked from Feb. 15 to Feb. 25 for a performance that started only an hour later. His Chicago tour stop is followed by stints in Toronto, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York.

Edelman said his ongoing performance is one of his proudest. Fond of poking fun at extremism, Edelman said “discourse is fused to (his) spine” in his works.

“It’s a one-person discourse, which I really love,” he said. “I love to hold contradictory notions or have a show where the aesthetic and process of the show can reflect different contents.”

NU Hillel hosted Edelman for its annual Jordan and Jean Nerenberg Family Foundation Speaker Event, which invites a Jewish speaker to discuss current events and culture. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the reporters who exposed film producer Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of sexual harassment in a bombshell 2017 article for The New York Times, were last year’s guests.

Communication senior Sophie Brown, who moderated the event, said she reached out to Edelman’s agent about a possible collaboration as soon as she saw that his tours would pass through Chicago.

“Alex Edelman is one of my favorite comedians,” she said. “I kind of made it my own mission to see if we could bring him to Northwestern Hillel.”

NU Hillel Associate Director Rachel Hillman, who also helped with the event’s planning, said she hoped other students would be inspired by Edelman’s success in the comedy industry.

“I hope it is very inspirational to our students to see representation of someone who looked like them and had a similar experience to them on stage performing and sharing insider baseball of the Jewish community in a really public way,” she said.

While telling a string of jokes and calling out audience members, Edelman also shared his perspective on Jewish comedy.

He said he dislikes how diverse approaches to Jewish comedy have been stifled in favor of schtick comedy.

“Instead of comedy about Jews, we should have comedy about what it means to be Jewish,” he said. “We need a more advanced comedy aesthetic if we’re ever going to get to a better place.”

He also fielded questions from the audience about everything from the challenges of stand-up comedy to audience reactions of his performances, after which Brown closed off the event with a speed round of “Jewish or not Jewish.” The game — an adaptation of a similar exercise Edelman participated in with Jewish magazine Hey Alma last year — tasked Edelman with shooting off instinctual responses to whether NU-specific things and places were Jewish or not.

Edelman said collegiate a cappella and Willie the Wildcat were assuredly Jewish, while he placed the brutalist University Library firmly in the gentile camp.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Alex Edelman’s name. The Daily regrets the error.

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