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The Joke’s on Him

Barbara Bensoussan

If you’re British and hear the name Ashley Blaker, you’ll probably start to giggle. Blaker, one of the funniest men in the British entertainment industry who today wears a black hat and has peyos behind his ears, talks about becoming religious in a heavily atheistic medium, and how a Torah life doesn’t have to be humorless. And, quoting a Gemara about the value of making others laugh, he says that “what I do can even be considered a mitzvah.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

man bbc joke I’m not sure what an internationally recognized comedy writer and producer is supposed to look like. Long gone are the days when jesters wore motley hats and pointy shoes. But I’m pretty sure the average comedy professional does not look like the slight man with the dark-brown beard and thick peyos tucked behind his ears who shows up to meet me at a Manhattan restaurant, wearing a white shirt and a black suit. For a guy who earns his living making people laugh, he seems awfully serious.

Ashley Blaker, an independent producer for the BBC and other media outlets, is here in town for a professional meeting. In fact, he’s become a real fan of BoroPark’s 13th Avenue, always making time to get there to stock up on kosher nuts and candies, baked goods, and seforim. But he’s a native ofLondon, where he and his wife Gemma are living and raising their five children.

If you’re a frum Jew like Blaker, his name probably won’t mean anything to you. Yet in England, Blaker is considered king of comedy in the mainstream media, first earning renown through a show he created called Little Britain, and more recently as creator, writer, and producer of the side-splitting The Matt Lucas Awards.

All entertainers have their challenges, but being religious in the decidedly secular entertainment world has its own unique set of hurdles. Blaker says he’s determined to succeed in both worlds, and where his unaffiliated Jewish compatriots are concerned (and the entertainment world has many), he’s determined to try to bridge the gap.

He’s also exquisitely aware of the responsibility he carries, being the only frum Jew most of his colleagues have ever met — “and the only chareidi Jew in comedy,” he notes. Blaker says he’s careful never to swear or raise his voice, no matter how high the pressure, and tries to stay out of conversations that veer into lashon hara.

“I’m passionate about making a kiddush Hashem,” he says.

 

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