Alex Edelman Pleasance Courtyard 2015 until 24th August Reviewed 19th August 5 stars
So here’s another Jewish man from New York, talking about what it’s like to be Jewish, male, and from New York. In a year in which the Fringe is self-congratulatory about reaching a 17% representation from women performers, it’s not on appearance the most promising show you could imagine. Top it off with a title like “Millennial” and material on Obama’s 2008 campaign, and you’d be fair to expect some of the most tired and obvious observational comedy since yesterday.
Edelman is, however, a revelation – he won the best newcomer award at the Fringe this year, and not undeservedly. It seems only fit to talk about him in the kind of cliche glowing platitudes that match that kind of accolade.
Here’s one: Alex Edelman confounds stereotypes. He truly does – he addresses, explores, and rejects them. His Jewishness, his maleness, his New Yorkness and his titular millennial status are all objects of consideration, but he astoundingly manages to produce new and insightful things to say about all of them.
Here’s another: Edelman is the poster child for the millennials. Literally. A photo of him was a Getty Images feature, and ran on the cover of newspapers in New York and elsewhere. For a while, Google searches for terms like ‘disappointed graduate’ would return a photo of him, supplicant in prayer, with a mortarboard. And yet, he manages to live up to his image through his observations on what separates and joins him to other generations. He is a genuine speaker for his cohort and, while never sacrificing humour, has some inspirational things to say.
Here’s yet another: Millennial is Edelman’s masterpiece. In the purest and most archaic sense of the term – not that he’ll never produce anything as good again; but rather that with this show Edelman has announced his ascension to that class of standup comedians who operate at the highest levels of their art. No longer a journeyman, Edelman is now free to explore more experimental forms or craft more personalised flourishes onto a basic shape that he has perfected, confident that his talent is demonstrably beyond question.
Millennial is simply a very very good standup show, a classic of craftsmanship that will be admired and studied by standup novices. Audiences will be content merely to enjoy the unpretentious, thoughtful and hilarious comedy on offer. And, I think, most if not all will come away both impressed and enriched by his subtle wisdom.
Millenial, in fact, is standup comedy as it should be.