Alex Edelman: Just for Us (2024) | Transcript

Standup comic Alex Edelman's Broadway show, featuring his experience attending a meeting of White Nationalists in Queens, New York and other stories, comes to TV.
Alex Edelman: Just for Us (2024)

Standup comic Alex Edelman’s Broadway show, featuring his experience attending a meeting of White Nationalists in Queens, New York and other stories, comes to TV.

Release date: April 6, 2024 (HBO)

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♪ Outside the cars ♪

♪ Are beeping out a song Just in your honor ♪

♪ And though They do not know it ♪

♪ All mankind Are now your brothers ♪

♪ And thus the cathedral Had spoken ♪

♪ Wishing well To all us sinners ♪

♪ And though They do not know it ♪

♪ All mankind Are now your brothers ♪


Hello. All right.


Oh. Thank you so much for coming.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for watching. My name is Alex Edelman. I’m a comedian, and I’m gonna tell you a story. I’m gonna tell you a story about something that happened to me. But first I wanna tell you about something that happened to this gorilla.

Ooh. Okay. So there’s this gorilla named Koko. Has everyone heard of Koko the gorilla?

Yes. Some for yeses. Koko the gorilla, for those of you that don’t know, is a gorilla that spoke fluent sign language. And in 1999, this is true, Koko met Robin Williams. And a couple of years ago, they told Koko that Robin Williams had passed away. And Koko went, “Koko friend, Koko sad.” Aw!

Yes, which is sad, but on the plus side, how funny was Robin Williams, that even gorillas are like, “This guy!”

“He’s unbelievable.” My comedy barely works if you’re not from the Upper West Side. Robin Williams crossed the species barrier.

Brilliant comedian. Also, and obviously, did they have to tell… …the gorilla that Robin Williams had passed away? She wasn’t gonna catch it on CNN or anything like that. I heard about this in, like, September of 2017 and I couldn’t stop imagining somebody walking into a gorilla enclosure, just like, “No. I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Let me.”

“Hi, Koko?”

“Can you put down the banana?” “We have some bad news.” And they tell Koko and Koko’s like… “Oh, no.”

“But Prince is fine, right?” Like, “Get the gun. Koko. Koko, calm down.” And Koko’s like, “Why was the last David Bowie album so sad?”

And they’re like, “Koko!” And Koko’s like, “What else do you know–” And they’re like, “Koko, no.” And Koko’s like… And they’re like, “Koko, no.” And Koko’s like, “Who is the president right now?” Those are the kind of jokes I write. I write jokes that are so dumb and simple that part of it is like, “Oh, I can’t believe someone took the time to think about that.” “I can’t believe that someone thought that was worth informing an audience of.” I can’t believe– This is true sadly, that in the middle of a pandemic, someone spent 500 dollars on sign language lessons over Zoom… …for a joke about a gorilla. I love a dumb joke. I love a silly joke. It’s my job. It’s my currency. I wrote a joke a while ago that was so dumb, it took a month and a half to realize it was actually too dumb to ever grace a stage.

Here it is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fat horse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fat horse. Maybe that’s because they get four times as many steps as we do.

I… I know, I know. And a month and a half later, I was walking through a Whole Foods and out of nowhere I was like… “Twice as many steps.” They don’t have eight goddamn legs.

It’s twice as many steps. And that’s what this show was gonna be when I started writing it. It was gonna be a show full of benign silliness, like I’ve done my whole comedy life, and then something happened. So, I write radio comedy shows for the BBC. Nobody listens to these things.

No one. People my age don’t even know what a radio comedy show is. Like, I’ll tell people, “I write radio comedy shows.” And they’re like, “What’s a radio comedy show?” And I have to explain that it’s like a podcast, but for the dying. And like, this radio show comes out and there’s this massive wave of indifference, right? No one cares. It’s a radio comedy show. But there are two tweets. Just two. And one tweet’s actually very nice. It’s very complimentary, because the tweet is from my Aunt Nancy in Teaneck, New Jersey.

And it said– Her fans are everywhere, of course. And the second tweet is from someone I’m not related to. And this guy’s just listened to the show. And this guy’s very upset. And this guy’s very upset, largely by the fact that I… am a Jew. And sometimes people can tell that I’m Jewish because of my name, or my face, or anything about my personality. But this guy’s very upset by the fact that I’m Jewish, and he lets me know, and I make a mistake.

I respond to the tweet. I know. And then he writes back and then I write back, and then he writes back, and then other people get involved. And then I go to bed, and I wake up the next morning, and my Twitter feed, it’s just this avalanche of antisemitism. Nothing but anti– And it bothered me. It’s never fun to see that stuff directed at you. And then it stopped bothering me because I started adding these people to a Twitter list. Do you guys know what I mean, generally when I say Twitter lists? A couple of yeses, a couple of blank stares. All right, fine. By the way, you don’t… you don’t need to know what this is. I promise you, it’s an obscure function of a dying platform.

Like, you don’t truly need to know. But on Twitter– Yeah… But on Twitter, the way it works is you follow folks. You know that, you follow people, everybody knows. But imagine you’re interested in, like, a common area. Imagine you’re interested in, like, opera or the NBA, but you don’t feel like following a whole bunch of NBA players. What you can do is, you can make a list of NBA players and then follow that list and check it occasionally, right? So I did that, but with anti-Semites. And because of certain issues within the NBA at the moment, there would indeed be some crossover between the two lists. But I made this list of anti-Semites and I like it immediately. I like it for two reasons. Reason number one, let them be on a list for once!

Okay? Okay? Even Schindler, not a Jew, we make the list now. And reason number two, these guys got a notification when they were added to the list.

And the name of this list, and they saw this when they were added, was Jewish National Fund contributors. And I got so many tweets from anti-Semites going, “Take me off your goddamn list.”

“I have never contributed to the Jewish National Fund.” And I would always write back, “There’s still time.” “We’re planting a million trees outside of Haifa, be part of the Zionist dream.” And I love my list. I love my list for these two silly reasons, but then I get to love it for a third reason, which is that it’s got all of the worst opinions on it. And that’s one of the reasons you go on social media.

Right? You wanna be offended. Right? Same reason you watch cable news. You’re not a moron, you know you’re not getting real news. But you get to be upset. Right? You get to be upset at something someone on the other team did or didn’t do, or something they did or didn’t say. And I have a list. I have a digital terrarium of assholes. And occasionally, with great sanctimony, obviously, I go down the list and be like, “Oh, my God, that’s so racist. Oh, my God, that’s so sexist. Oh, my God, that’s so homophobic. I don’t have any of these opinions. I’m such a good boy.” Anyway, it’s a Tuesday night and I’m doing my favorite thing. When I’m alone, my favorite thing to do is I lie on my couch and I hold my phone like an otter, like an inch from my face. Do you know what I mean? Just a brisk nine, ten hours in a row, just going like this? And I see this tweet from someone on the list. And the tweet says, “Hey!”

“Hey.” “If you live in NYC and you have questions about your Whiteness, come to 441, 27th Avenue,” which is in Queens, “Tomorrow night at 9:15.”

And I saw the tweet. And I thought to myself, I live in NYC. And as an Ashkenazi Jew, I have some questions about my Whiteness. And I’m free tomorrow night at 9:15. And I took a screen grab. I took a picture of the tweet. And I sent it to my best friend in the world, this guy named David Burstein. And I wrote, “David… …do you wanna come with me to this meeting of Nazis in Queens?” And I saw the three dots on the iPhone, that means someone’s texting you back. And then the dots disappeared, then they reappeared, then they disappeared again. And then he called me. And he said, “What’s going on?” And I said, “I’m gonna go to this Nazi bar.” And he said, “Why?” And I said, “I’m gonna listen to everything they have to say. I will learn something. It’ll be fascinating, illuminating.”

And he’s like, “You’re so brave.” And I was like, “I know, I am so brave.” And the next night around 9:15, I take the subway into Queens, and I get off and I walk to the address of this Nazi bar, and it’s not a bar.

It’s an apartment building. And I thought to myself… “How brave are we?” It was January. It was so– I stood outside this building, freezing, dithering, for like 20 minutes, being like, “Maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe my mouth is writing checks that my butt can’t cash.” And there was one moment where I was like, “Well, obviously I’m in the wrong place.” But I knew I wasn’t. I knew I was in the right place ’cause there was a sign on the front door of this building and the sign just said third floor, but it said it in Comic Sans font, the most radical of all the fonts. And after a while, I sort of rediscover the intestines that I left on the 7 train.

And I go upstairs… to the third floor of this building. And there’s this long corridor, long, doors on either side of me, overhead lighting, bad. And there’s one open door in this hallway. And when I walk in, the first thing I see in the foyer of this apartment is this older lady. She’s in her seventies, at least, or like eighties, but she moisturizes.

And like… And she’s got this table in front of her. And on this table is the biggest jigsaw puzzle I have ever seen. A jigsaw puzzle. Here’s how big it is. When I walked in and I saw the puzzle, involuntarily, I just went, “Oh, wow.” And without looking up, she went, “12,000 pieces.” She knew exactly what I was talking about from, “Oh, wow.” And I said, “That’s so much puzzle.” And she went, “This isn’t even all of it.” “This is, like, a quarter of the puzzle. I’ve been working on this part for, like, six months.” And I thought to myself, “You should be further into that puzzle, probably.” Although, maybe White supremacists’ jigsaw puzzles are harder. You know, ’cause, like, all the faces look the same. She’s sitting. I’m standing. We’re making small talk about her tonnage of puzz.

And like— And she tells me how much like, the puzzles mean to her. And for what it’s worth, I like jigsaw puzzles. And I like people that do them, like, it’s a very, like, thoughtful, fulsome exercise, there aren’t a ton of those left. And it’s even, like, a tidy metaphor for why I’m here, right? Like— Because, as with the world, with a puzzle, you need every piece for a complete picture. You need every piece for a full perspective. If you’re missing even one piece of your puzzle, it is suspect or worthless. But even a metaphorical puzzle, I can do quicker than this lady. Like, she’s making zero progress, and at some point she just went, “You know the last one of these… took, like, three years.” And I said, “Last one?” And she points behind herself, down this hallway. And I follow her finger. And as I go down in, I pass two enormous, framed, framed jigsaw puzzles. Framed. And then to my right, there’s like a threshold. Like a doorway with no door. And when I walk through this threshold, I’m in this living room. And it’s like a… It’s a pretty spacious living room. And there’s, like, a hodgepodge of chairs around, and folks are walking around talking. And of all– Oh, and to my– Sorry. To my left, there’s, like, a big table of, like, pastries and orange juice. And even though I was a little scared, I was like, “Oh, sick! Pastries!” So, I’m eating this Whites’ only muffin. And on the other side of the room… I see this cute girl. And this is how dumb of a moron I am. I saw the girl and I thought to myself with no irony… you never know. You never know, right? You gotta shoot your shot. So, I put down my racist pastry and I went over. And I said, “Hi, I’m Alex.” And she went, “Oh, hi, I’m Chelsea.” And we start chatting and it’s good chat. But a few moments in, Chelsea just went, “Ah! Hey, Alex! The White House! Hmm?” And I thought to myself, “This could go… anywhere.” I actually have a thing for this. I have a thing for this. If anyone ever asks you a question and you know they want a specific answer from you, but you’re not sure what that answer is, there are four words that will save you every single time. Every– Sir, sorry to bother you. Would you mind asking me if I saw the game last night? Did you see the game last night? Oh, can you believe it?

Well done. That was very nice. Okay. Very nice. “Can you believe it?”

Guys, this works. It’s amazing. “Can you believe it?” It means people’s three favorite things in a conversation. It means I know what you’re talking about, I agree with you, and most importantly, you talk.

It works every single time. By the way, I’m from New England. There is a New England version of this. If you’re ever caught in a stalled conversation with a New Englander, just go, “Fucking Brady, right?”

It works every single time. But this is better? It is evergreen. “Can you believe it?” I have a neighbor in L.A. I never know what he’s talking about. I use this in every conversation with him. He’ll be like, “Oh, recycling!” And I’ll be like, “Can you believe it?” And he’s like, “They should take it out on Thursdays.” And I’ll be like, “Okay.” Or he’ll be like, “Minor League Baseball.” And I’m like, “Can you believe it?” And he’s like, “They should pay the players more.” And I’m like, “Absolutely.” And my favorite one ever, this is like six months ago. He just went, “Hey, Alex, the Kennedy assassination.” And I was like, “Can you believe it?” And he said, “Bobby did it.”

And I was like, “Oh.” “Well, he got his, didn’t he?” I mean… “Can you believe it?” It is a mirror of a question of an answer, and it works here. Because she just went, “The White House! Hmm?” And I said, “Can you believe it?”

And she went off on this rant about Jared Kushner.

Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, and she goes off on how “Kushner and his friends” are ruining the Trump administration and the country. And I so had to stop myself from doing what I desperately wanted to do, which was go, “Oh, I hate Jared Kushner. He sits behind me in synagogue on the Upper East Side.

He’s so goddamn loud.” That’s true, by the way. It’s 1,000 percent true. Kehilath Jeshurun on 85th and Lexington, it’s where he goes. He’s fucking loud.

And he’s arrogant. That’s the word. He’s so– Like when they call him up to the Torah, he walks up like he wrote it. He’s got a problem, I’m telling you. And– Anyway, she’s off on her rant about the Kush.

I’m standing there. I’m nodding, I’m trying to focus more on the face, less on the opinions, you know. And we talk for like 15 minutes. And she does most of the talking, which is a red flag, but not a deal breaker, you know. And after about 15 minutes, I feel someone kind of, like, lurking in my periph.

Like I’m being haunted. And when I turn around, there’s this guy standing there. And this guy’s sizing me up with a look on his face that I would honestly most accurately describe as… “This is a Jew!” Like, “I’m pretty sure this is a Jew!” And he said to me, “Hey, can I help you?” As if I was gonna be like… “Yes! Well, I was on my way to synagogue for Yom Kippur! But I got lost and I stumbled in here. Do you know if these muffins is kosher?” But I tried to be neutral and I said, “Hey, man.” And he said, “Can I help you?” And I said, “I’m here for the thing.” And he said, “You’re here for the meeting?” And I thought about saying, “Can you believe it?” But I had just used it, so I said, “Yeah, man, I’m here for the meeting.” And he said, “Chelsea, he’s with you?” And Chelsea just went, “Oh… …we just met, but he seems cool.” And I thought to myself, “Nice.”

You never know, right? And then this guy, like, fumfers for– Like this guy’s not quite sure what to say. But when he recovered, he just said, “Okay. All right. But who is he? Excuse me, who are you? Like, what’s your name?” Here’s the thing.

Here’s the thing. Growing up… …I always wanted to be White.

Yeah, yes. I’m aware there are a few of you looking at me like, “Mission accomplished, buddy.” “Does he not…?” I am White. I’m definitely White. But I grew up in a place where there were different kinds of White people. I grew up in a place where there was a strict hierarchy for Whiteness. I grew up in Boston. I grew up in this really racist part of Boston called Boston.

And in Boston… And in Boston, there are different kinds of White people, there are different kinds of Whiteness, right? Like, there are Ashkenazi Jews, like me, and we’re in places like Brookline and Newton and an outer suburb way to the south called Sharon, there are the Russians. In Eastie, in East Boston, there are the Greeks. In Dorchester, there are the Italians in the North End. And of course, Irish Catholics, right? ICs practically synonymous with Boston, and they’re scattered all over, but a lot of them very famously concentrate in, anybody know? Southie. Southie, South Boston. Yes. And they’ve had an amazing century. No, truly, an incredible 100 years for the Bostonian Irish Catholics. They’ve gone up a couple of socioeconomic classes as a whole. They’ve had their own president, who was apparently killed by his brother.

Right? Like, there’s any reason… But they’ve not ascended to the top of this totem pole. ‘Cause at the top of this pyramid of Bostonian Caucasian, unquestionably? WASPs.

WASPs. Exactly. The WASPs. And let me tell you, that is the kind of White you wanna be… …in Boston. You know what I mean? The sort of, like, any country club you want White. Or, like, had a relative on the Mayflower White. Or, like, “I can’t read, but I got into Harvard!” Like, that’s the White you wanna be in Beantown. And growing up, I became so keenly aware of that and I started changing things about myself to appear a little less Jewish. Like, when I was a kid, no one called me Alex. Everyone called me David or David Yosef.

My– My full name isn’t Alex Edelman. My full name, get ready, is David Yosef Shimon Ben Elazar Reuven Alexander Halevi Edelman. That is my full name.

I go– Sure. I go by Alex now and my family has noticed the shift. My father’s name is Elazar. That’s the name that he goes by. And he’s like, “You’re not proud of your real name?” And I’m like, “No.” And he’s like, “Why not?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, Elazar. Maybe because it sounds like we’re all in Slytherin.

That’s why.” I have cousins Mikal and Penecost. You can’t even spell their names right in English ’cause there’s no English letter for phlegm. I don’t wanna get into a game of like, “How Jewish are you?” This is how Jewish we are. My brother AJ, or Adam Yitzhak Chaim… …qualified for the last Winter Olympics for Israel. This is not a joke. AJ– I mean, like, it is eventually a joke, but like this… AJ qualified for the last Winter Olympics for Israel. And whenever I tell people that, they always have a few questions. They’re like, “Your brother?” “Yes.”

“Your brother?” “Yes.” “Your brother’s an Olympian?” “Yeah.” If you’re wondering, turns out it’s nurture. “Your brother’s an Olympian?” “I know.” “For Israel?” “I know.” “The Winter Olympics?” “I know.” “Does Israel have winters?” “Not really. He had to train in Munich,” in what must be the irony to end all ironies. “What’s AJ’s sport?” “AJ’s sport is called skeleton.” Which is like… Which is like luge but head-first. By the way, my father says on television that I have to inform audiences that AJ is a hero, it’s an accomplishment, and we’re so proud of him.

There. Okay. Skeleton– Oh, are you– No, no, no, no, no. It’s… It’s the dumbest sport in the world, it’s not a real sport, it’s a lunch tray and an icy hill.

Here’s… Here’s how dumb this sport is. We went to go see AJ qualify upstate Lake Placid, and this guy from Italy named Cicini, named Jean-Luc Cicini, he crashed at the top of the run, and his little sled went down without him, and the sled on its own finished in fourth place. And I think about that every day, ’cause my brother’s always like, “It’s a skill sport.” And I’m like, “It’s gravity, AJ!” A corpse and some duct tape would medal in this event. You turn on the Olympics and Bob Costas would be like, “Wow, Tom! Look at Simmons keeping his shoulders so still in those corners.” Also, I had no faith in him. No. Like, whenever they interview athlete families, they’re always like, “We knew.” I’m like, “You knew?” “Oh, we knew that Megan was special and she would lead the women’s team to the World–” There was none of that in my house. I made fun of my brother every day. I called him “The Frozen Chosen” for like four years in a row. And then my mom was like, “Stop calling him that.” And this is gonna be too Jewish for a couple of you, but I switched over to “Shul Runnings” and I am so proud. Shul means synagogue in Yiddish. We had T-shirts made. It’s like a whole thing. We’re at… We’re at the Olympics. We’re sitting on this bus from the Olympic village to the venue. And this Israeli reporter was interviewing AJ and he was like, “Adam… …what was it like when you found out you were going to be… an Olympian?” And AJ was like, “Oh, Guri, no one was more surprised than I was.” And out loud on Israeli TV, I just went, “That’s not true.” “It’s not true. I bet my dad 50 dollars that he wouldn’t make the Olympics.”

But he did. He made the Olympics. He’s one of the 30 best skeleton athletes on the planet, out of the 42 skeleton athletes on the planet. And he did it for Israel. And that’s a whole separate kettle of fish, but we are proudly and emphatically Jewish. And it’s a huge part of my background and my upbringing and the filter through which I see the world, but… but… …when I’m standing in this apartment in Queens and this guy says, “What’s your name?” I tell him my name’s Alex, ’cause I’m not gonna give him the backstory.

I said, “I’m Alex.” And of course, I said, “How about you, man?” “Like, what’s your name?” And the guy thought about it.

He just went… “My name’s Cortez.” And I said, “I’m sorry, your name is Cortez?” And with a real knife in his voice, the guy just said, “We don’t give real names to people who are here for the first time.” And he looked directly into my face. And I’m trying to look back at him, like not too aggressive, but also not like a coward, and it’s very awkward. There’s like a real moment of tension. But that tension is broken fairly quickly, ’cause this guy just came crossing from the other side of the room and he looked at us, and he just went, “Hey, Matt, we’re starting.” And I was like, “Nice to meet you, Cortez.” And then we start. We start. There was a moment before I walked in where I was like, “All right, if I get scared, I won’t… I won’t try anything fancy, I will leave. I will excuse myself to the bathroom and just go.” But nothing scary is happening yet. People are just pulling up chairs to the middle of the room, and everything’s like a little higgledy-piggledy. But we wind up with like a ragged circle of chairs that doesn’t quite close all the way on the end over here. It’s like a semicircle or like… an anti-semicircle.

It’s… I’m over here. I’m over here. I’m over here. There’s, uh… There are 17 of us, okay? I’m gonna say us. I’m gonna lump myself in logistically. Seventeen of us. Twelve men, five women, including Chelsea, my new love. Chelsea’s, like, two, three seats away from me on this side. This side of the circle, a little bit younger than this side of the circle. But this side of the circle seems to know each other. Much better, a little more engaged, a little more hardcore. This side, of course, has Cortez, my pal. He’s, like, um, five, six seats away from me on this side, jigsaw lady’s sitting next to him, and we start. We start. And for the first 15 or so minutes of this meeting, these guys talked about the royal wedding. Meghan and Harry. It had happened since they last got together, and they were upset about it. And it took me way longer than it should have to realize why they were upset. Meghan Markle’s mixed race. Of course she is. I forgot that. I forgot. You know who didn’t forget?

White nationalists. They’re very upset. They prefer that he marry a first cousin as per usual. Uh, real quick, I have a connection to Prince Harry, which is that my friend Jack once did cocaine with him in a London nightclub bathroom. All right, that did not get the reaction that I wanted from you. I will sidebar for this. Prince Harry had a cocaine problem. It’s the best thing. We don’t talk about it enough as a culture. It’s in the new book. It’s fantastic. I don’t approve of cocaine, but I love that Prince Harry had a cocaine problem. Because in America, we forget this. But in England, the Queen is on all of the money. So that means at some point, Prince Harry rolled up a picture of his grandmother to do drugs that he bought with other pictures of his grandmother. That will never happen to any of you. None of you can walk into Times Square after this and the drug dealer’s like, “Excuse me, that’ll be 300 dollars.” And you’re like, “Excuse me. Here’s a picture of my grandma at her 50th Jubilee parade.” He’s like, “What?” You’re like, “Here’s a picture of my grandma with Winston Churchill.” And he’s like, “How’d you get this?” And you’re like, “Here’s a picture of my grandma planning the death of my mom.” It only works for him. What are you gonna do about it though, huh? What, are you gonna tell people not to watch the special? Fuck you. What are you gonna do? Just ’cause it’s not in The Crown, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Grow the fuck up. By the way, just so you know, cocaine has no effect on me.

None. Zero. Because I’m part of this generation of over-medicated ADHD children. Do you know what I mean? Like, someone offered me cocaine a couple of years ago, and I tried it, and they were like, “How do you feel?” And I was like, “Like there’s homework to do!” “Do you feel like dancing? We’re going dancing.” And I’m like, “I can’t, I’m putting a bibliography together, aren’t I?” I’m gonna get started on the secondary sources. You fact-check the primary sources. Where are you going? We need 3,000 words on Moby Dick by Thursday. Anyway. They’re upset. And this is a huge group of nodders. Like, if anyone ever agreed with anything, they were like, “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.” And someone’s like, “It’s a disgrace.” And everyone’s like, “It’s a disgrace!”

“It’s a disgrace.” And someone else was like, “It represents the sorry state of the West.” And everyone’s like, “The West? What happened to our standards in the West?” And jigsaw lady. Jigsaw– I’m fascinated by this person. Not much for eye contact. Always looking at her shoes, like they owed her money.

Always straight down. But whenever she spoke, you knew who was talking. No one else had a register like this. And at some point, she just went, “Didn’t just happen though, did it? Didn’t just happen is what we’ve come to. This is what we’ve come to. A member of the royal family marrying a–” And then… she uses the N-word. And Chelsea just said… “You know… I’m not crazy about that word actually.” And I thought to myself, “There’s a spectrum of Nazi?” I kept falling in love with Chelsea a little bit. I did, for two reasons.

First of all, you never know. Second of all– Right? You never know. Second of all, I love romantic comedy films. Right? You wouldn’t watch this? What a great meet-cute for a rom-com, no? We meet at this meeting. She’s played by Anne Hathaway. I like to imagine I’ve booked the role of myself, but if we’re being honest, it’s Jesse Eisenberg or skinny Jonah Hill. And like, we meet at this meeting. And we start dating, and I have to hide the fact that I’m Jewish. And eventually, we start sleeping together, and she’s like, “Why are you circumcised?” And I’m like, “Don’t worry about it.” And, like, things are going really amazing, and I get down on one knee towards the end of the film at the top of the Empire State Building, in the rain, it’s a rom-com. And as I open up my ring box to propose, I lock eyes with my TALMA teacher from fifth grade, and I’m like, “Rabbi Klammer?” And he’s like, “David Yosef Shimon Edelman?” And she’s like… And she runs away. But her best friend, Rebel Wilson, is like, “Girl, you gotta go back to him. He is a good man.” And so we reunite, and we kiss, and the last scene of the movie, we’re married in my parents’ synagogue, right? Like that’s how that would go. You know, on Broadway, I’ve had to explain that to– The stomp to people. So, like, if you guys don’t know, when Jews get married, they wrap a glass up in a napkin and then they crush the glass because the glass represents… happiness. So, you’re just like, bam. Here’s the problem with my rom-com. I date very assertive women. I always have. So, what would really happen is, we’d meet at this meeting, we’d start dating, and then three weeks later… …I would be a Nazi. I’d be standing on my parents’ front lawn in Brookline, Massachusetts, holding a brick, and she’d be like, “Do it.” And I’m like… “Hi, Eema.” “Hi, Mom, this is Chelsea. This is Matt– Sorry, this is Cortez.” There’s so much complaining in this room. That’s the first thing that– There’s so much kvetching in this room. This is around the time they were taking down Confederate statues. Remember that? They’re very upset about that. They talked a lot about how White history is being erased. They’re taking down statues of White people. They’re pulling White people out of textbooks. Someone over here says, “They don’t even teach about White men in public schools anymore.”

And everyone’s like, “Mm-hmm.” “Mm-hmm.” And White people aren’t just being replaced in the classroom. It’s happening in real life. It’s happening in real life in their own country, in their own country, it’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. And what’s enabling this replacement? What’s enabling, as the guy next to me says, “The slow-moving genocide against Whites in America”? It’s this myth. It’s this myth of White privilege. And this myth drives so much of the stuff they hate. It drives diversity hiring initiatives. It drives a popular culture they despise! Despise. And it drives reverse racism, which is when people are racist against White people just because they’re White. And then someone over here says, “It’s the biggest problem in the country today, and no one is brave enough to talk about it.”

And everyone’s like, “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.” And I can give you two guesses… …at who they blame for this kind of thing. And you might not need your second guess. Because running through this meeting is this thick vein of antisemitism, but I’ve never seen this kind of antisemitism before. It’s almost exhilarating. It’s like thick, Technicolor, weapons-grade, conspiracy-theory level anti– Like, at some point, this guy two seats away from me, he just went, “Jews are sneaky and they’re everywhere!”

And I was like… “Seems like the wrong time to argue with this guy actually.” “That’s a disgrace.” “That’s a disgrace.” I see myself very much as a Jew. Obviously. But I see myself more than anything else as a Jew. Like when I wake up in the morning, my first thought is like, “Jew waking up.” And not just Jewish religious, observant, thoughtful about what it means in my life. If I was very secular, I’d be a completely different human being. Complete– If I was very secular in a fun, liberal city like New York or San Francisco, I think I’d consider myself bisexual. But because I was raised religious in a place like Boston, I consider myself straight with a couple of secrets. And I remember the first time I was aware of being Jewish. I should have been aware, like, eight days in.

But the first time I was aware… The first time I was aware, I was, like, five years old. I’m at a Chuck E. Cheese at a children’s birthday party in Natick, Massachusetts. And I reached for a slice of pizza that had some sausage on it or pepperoni, something not kosher. And my grandfather was there, and he saw me reaching, and he kicked my hand. Kicked. And he said, “You can’t have that, David. We’re Jewish.” And I said, “What does that mean?” And with a totally straight face, he just went, “It means you’ll never be happy.” And I said, “Be’emet?” which means, “For real?” And he went, “Oh, yeah.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “It means you’ll never be happy with the way things are. And you’ll always question things. And even when things are pretty good, they won’t seem that good to you.” And I said, “Papa, I don’t wanna be Jewish!” And then my grandfather laughed at me. And he just went… “Sweetie, that’s the most Jewish thing there is.” And it blows my mind when I meet non-Jews, and they say things to me like, “Oh, well, I get it ’cause I used to be a Christian, so.” “Sorry, what?” “Well, I was raised Christian, but a couple years ago, I decided I was nothing, so.”

No– I understand that intellectually. I respect that, of course. But that is not how it works in Judaism. You can’t leave when you feel like it. Judaism is the Hotel California of religions. It is a mailing list, you can never “unsubscribe” from. And I worry that I’m not Jewish enough. I worry that. I– Which is crazy, ’cause to my comedy friends, I’m the most Jewish person they’ve ever met. I’m a beard away from their conception of rabbi. And to my family, I’m Lady Gaga. I called my father once. My father is this lovely, thoughtful professor at Harvard Medical School, religious, wears a yarmulke, a kippah. Every single day of his life. If something goes well, he says, “Baruch Hashem.” “Thank God.” And I called him, I said, “Dad, Abba, I worry that the life that I lead isn’t Jewish enough.” And he said, “Alex, I understand that concern.” And I said, “Do you ever worry about that?” And he said, “Of course. I worry every day that the life that you lead isn’t Jewish enough.” And I am so tough on other Jews. I am relentless with other Jews. It’s my least favorite thing about myself. LikeLike, I was at a friend’s house. I’m meeting my friend’s baby. So many of my friends are having babies or adopting. I’m thinking a lot about adoption, but I’m 34. And I think for adoption, that’s right on the line, age-wise. Right? Like, I think that’s too old. I don’t think anyone is gonna take me at this point.

But like— I’m holding… I’m holding this baby, and the baby starts to cry. Oh, baby’s name is Yasi. My friend’s name is Mati. His wife’s name is Rahel.

These are normal names where I’m from. They are. Those are normal names. And I’m holding the baby, and he starts to cry, which is fine. He’s a baby. But Rahel, who I don’t think’s ever really liked me, just went, “Huh.” “Looks like he’s not a fan of yours, is he?” And I said, “It’s fine. He’s a baby.” And she said, “He actually has a really good sense for men.” And I said, “He doesn’t have a good sense for anything. He doesn’t even know he’s alive yet.” And apparently, never say this to a new mother. I said, “He’s just like a brisket with eyes right now.” And she said, “He’s very intuitive.” And I said, “He’s not. He shits himself.” And the husband, who I’ve known forever, he’s seen enough and he just went, “Whoa! Whoa–” Still calls me David. That’s how long I’ve known this guy. I’ve known this guy forever. And he went, “Whoa! Sorry, David, we’re a little uptight– We are. We’re a little uptight, ’cause people have been judging us for the way that we’re raising the baby.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “Well, we’ve decide– We’ve decided that we’re not gonna vaccinate until we know a bit more.” And I was like, “Against COVID, you don’t need to. He’s an infant.” He’s like, “Not against COVID, against like mumps and measles and the other stuff.”

And I was like, “Oh!” “Oh, well, first of all, here’s your disease baby back.” “Second of all, what are you talking about?” And he said, “Well, we’ve read that the vaccines can cause autism.” And I said, “That is not true.” And Rahel went, “What do you know about autism?” And I was like, “First of all, I’ve been tested 11 times.” “You think you get like this without people asking a couple of questions?” I am so neurodivergent. I saw so many child psychiatrists growing up in the Greater Boston area, the last one was free. And I just have, like, one memory. I’m sitting on this brown couch in this doctor’s office, and my mom is outside in the waiting room talking to the doctor. And I just remember hearing her go, “What do you mean, ‘He’s fine?'” And I was like, “Yeah, vaccines don’t cause autism.” “Mati, you know that.” And like, it ends the conversation. He just went, “Well… it’s our opinion, isn’t it? We’re his parents. It’s our opinion.” And I don’t know that I would do this with someone who wasn’t Jewish, but I just went, “Oh, and you guys are embarrassed.” “Right, you’re mortified, ’cause it’s such a low-information opinion.” “‘Cause there’s no basis in science, and it’s so bad for the child, so you probably don’t tell people.” “Something so ill-informed.” And he said, “Excuse me, we’re his parents. You don’t have children. You’ve never had to make this choice. You’re judging us for our opinion?” And I was like, “That’s how we judge people!” “Their opinions and their actions, and the content of their character. It used to be skin color, but someone had a dream.” And he said to me, in Hebrew, in Hebrew, “David, you can’t judge us. Only God, only Hashem can judge.”

And that worked with me. No, but that calmed me down immediately, ’cause it reminded me how I know this guy. I know this guy ’cause we went to a yeshiva together, which is a Hebrew day school. And in a yeshiva, you study Torah every morning from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., because “yeshiva” is a Hebrew word that means “miserable.” In a yeshiva, when they teach you about God, they teach you that he acts through you. If you are kind, that is God showing kindness. If you’re empathetic, that is Hashem manifesting empathy. In Hebrew, the word is “kli.” It means “vessel.” You are a vessel for God’s action. And so he said to me, “David, you can’t judge us. Only God can judge us. Alex can’t judge us. Only Hashem. Only Hashem can judge.” I calmed myself down, and I remembered that we have this common language and lineage, and that on paper, we’re basically the same person. And I explained to him that it’s possible that God was judging him, but that I was the vessel through which he had chosen to judge him. And we have not been invited back to that house. But it’s worth asking why this guy and his wife, who I have everything in common with, that’s who I go toe-to-toe with in their own living room, I show them so little understanding. In this living room in Queens, where I have so little in common with anyone, I sat there listening to them for an hour. All right. Guys, I sat in a conversation without talking one time… …for an hour, which for me… unprecedented. I couldn’t even nod. Everybody else was like, “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.” I had to nod at things out of context. Like at some point someone was like, “What it means to be a man in the workplace is changing.” And I was like… “That’s absolutely– Yeah, there’s a reckoning going on. I agree with that. It’s way better now. You can’t just, like, throw your interns out the windows. Mm-hmm.” And someone’s like, “Billionaires and corporations control our elections.” And I was like, “I’d like to see meaningful campaign finance reform in the United States.” “Such a progressive value, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s good.” And finally, I get a chance to talk. There’s this guy two seats away from Chelsea, and his name is Witt. And if such a thing can be said, he’s my favorite. You know how some people can be in their early thirties, but they have a vibe of teenager? That’s Witt. He’s a little blithe and slumpy. And, at some point, he’s like, “You know what’s really hard for us now? It’s really hard for us to reach new people on social media.” And I said, “Do you know why that is?” And Chelsea went, “Alex, do you know something about social media?” And I said, “Chelsea, I know a lot about social media.” And I started explaining this thing called the meaningful content algorithm. This is so interesting. All right, it used to be in the early days of social media, when you logged in, you’d see stuff chronologically. Remember that? You’d see things based on when they were posted. But now when you log in, you don’t see that anymore. You see what the algorithm thinks you’ll enjoy most first. That’s because of this thing called the meaningful content algorithm. And it’s Balkanized us into these social media echo chambers, which has made it so hard for new ideas, or in this, like, one specific instance, the oldest ideas in the world to reach new people. And so I start explaining the algorithm, I start explaining social media echo chambers, I start explaining Cambridge Analytica, the company that’s, like, best at this, and everybody’s listening to me. And, at some point, I looked around the circle, and people have got their arms crossed, and they’re nodding at each other, and they’re nodding at me. And I thought to myself all at once, “Oh, I’m positively contributing to this meeting of White nationalists.” I came as an observer. I’m gonna leave as, like, the “youth outreach officer” or something. But there was a moment… where I actually started to feel very badly for these people. I don’t want to be gratuitous, but these are not life’s winners. Hashem has not given with both hands to anyone in this room. They are not the brightest. They are not the wealthiest. They are very badly informed. And most importantly… …these guys are racists in New York City! They’re racists in Queens, the most diverse borough and the most– Guys, it’s Queens. In Queens, you can’t even get 17 Nazis together without a Jew being sat right there in the middle of you. This isn’t Arkan-ssippi. Are you kidding me? We’re two blocks away from Little Ethiopia. Things are going not well for these people. And at some point, I had a thought, which was so, like… I had a thought that was so self-aggrandizing, it took me two years to tell anyone about it. But at some point, I looked around the circle, and I thought to myself, “Wow.” “Look at me empathizing.” “Look at me feeling bad for these people when they’re so horrible, but I’m such a good boy.” “Am I the hero that we need in these difficult and divided times?” And then I thought, “Do I have a duty as a Jew… to hear these people, ’cause there’s actually something to that?” If you raise Jewish children correctly, empathy is the default. Empathy is the true north for every Jewish value. And all of the best Jewish moments of my life are moments where those values showed up in places you would never look for them. Like, once when I was a kid, my family had Christmas. This is totally true. My mom had this friend named Kate. And over the course of a calendar year, Kate lost her last parent and her last sibling. She had nowhere to go for the holiday. My mom said, “Kate, why don’t you come to our house? We’ll do Christmas.” That’s the kind of person my mom is.

My father… did not want that. Mom is a Jew from Cincinnati. She’s a Midwestern Jew.

It’s a slightly gentler existence. My father grew up Jewish in Boston like me, but in a time when it was so hard to be Jewish there, which is between the years 1500 and 1991. And he said, “Cheryl, I will not have Christmas in a Jewish home.” And my mom was like, “Elazar, we’re having Christmas.” And he’s like, “Over my dead body are we having Christmas.” So they compromised and we had Christmas.

So… Yeah, obviously. Obviously AJ and I come downstairs one day. My parents are sitting in the living room. I don’t know if any of you grew up in a home like this. We were never allowed in our living room. Never. The living room is for guests and tragedies. Those are the only times. And every piece of furniture is covered in plastic, in case the real owners of the house show up one day. We come downstairs, no guests. AJ and I look at each other like, “Oh, no. Bubbe died again,” and we sit down… …on the couch. And my mom just said, “Boys… this year… we’re having Christmas.” And AJ and I were so young and insulated. We looked at each other and we looked at my dad and I just went, “Okay. What’s Christmas?” And my father said, “It’s like Hanukkah.” And my mom undermined him immediately and went, “Yeah, but maybe even a little bit more fun.” Hanukkah sucks, by the way. Hanukkah– I appreciate the politically correct world that everybody lives in where we all pretend that all the holidays are equal. They are not equal. Every– Hanukkah’s very much the Diet Coke to Christmas’ black tar heroin. There is no comparison. No– Go into a supermarket come December. Christmas is everywhere. Hanukkah’s one little nub at the end of the shampoo aisle, there’s Passover matzah in there for some reason. And non-Jews are gorgeous ’cause they’re always like, “Well, you’re so lucky. You get eight days of gifts.” I have never met a single Jew who got eight days of decent gifts. Here’s how it works. You get one gift over the course of the– Like if you’re getting a bike, you get, like, a pedal on the first day, handlebars on the second, then the wheel.

It is absolute bullshit. Anyway, we do Christmas and oh, my God, do we do Christmas. We do the lights. We do the Christmas dinner. My… My mom put up stockings above the fireplace with our names on them in Hebrew and we… …we went whole hog. No hog. Kosher, Christmas. But we decked these halls. Deck! And Kate comes into our house. And Kate… …White. Princess Diana haircut, chunky gold earrings, Hermès scarf, shocking blue pantsuit. White. But she walks into our house like a little kid. Just like… And she starts to cry immediately. And my mom said, “Boys, whatever she wants to do, we’re gonna do.” And we did all this deep cuts Christmas stuff. We strung popcorn together on a string. We ate our way through an entire chocolate Advent calendar in, like, 25 minutes. And we watched Christmas movies. Please try to imagine being a young Jew and you’ve never heard of Christmas, and then on the day you find out about it, you watch, like, seven Christmas movies in a row. AJ and I are like, “Oh, so this holiday’s a huge deal, huh?” And the one that sticks out is the Peanuts Christmas special. Snoopy, Charlie Brown, best thing we’ve ever seen. AJ and I are like vibrating an inch from the TV. AJ’s like, “The meaning of Christmas, Snoopy.” And I’m like, “The spirit of Christmas, Charlie Brown.” My dad’s in the corner, like, praying for lightning.

Like… And at some point, a character on the screen just went, “Linus, we need to put out cookies for Santa Claus, don’t we?” And AJ and I look at each other. And we look at my dad, and I just went, “Abba… who’s Santa Claus?” And my father says this didn’t happen. And it is the single clearest memory from my childhood. My father rarely cursed in front of us and maybe he thought we couldn’t hear him, but he looked at my mom and he just went, “Cheryl… Jesus fucking Christ.” And my mom said, “Elazar.” And he said, “Come on.” And she went, “Just do it.” This is a direct quote. This is a direct quote from, like… …twenty-five years ago. My father walked up to us and he said… “Santa Claus, boys… he is a fat man.” “But it’s a good fat.”

“But it’s a good–” You know, like, Santa’s an avocado or something. “But it’s a good fat. And he comes down non-Jewish chimneys in the middle of the night and he gives gifts to young Christians.” And AJ and I are like… And AJ just said, “And he’s coming here?” My father’s like, “Sure. I guess he’s coming here.” We put out cookies for Santa Claus. We’re very skeptical, obviously. We go upstairs. We go to bed. We come downstairs the next morning. The cookies are gone. Guys, they’re gone. And AJ and I see that and we lose consciousness immediately. We, like, black out, and I know it’s happened, ’cause there’s home video, and on the home video, we’re going crazy. We’re like, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! He was here! He was here! Eema, he was here! Dad, he was here!” And, at some point, AJ’s standing on the couch and he looked at me and he just went, “Santa came!” And I went, “Baruch Hashem!” And we ran out to the garage. Why? Because this is the one concession my father got from my mom. He’s like, “Cheryl, I will not have a Christmas tree in a Jewish home.” And my mother was like, “I can respect that, Elazar. We’ll put it in the garage.” And there are two photos of this. Weird photos. We’re wearing pajamas ’cause we’re children, but we’re wearing jackets ’cause we’re in a Boston garage in December, and we’re wearing yarmulkes ’cause we’re Jews. But we’re standing in front of a fully-decorated Christmas tree with a teddy bear wearing his own yarmulke on top of it. And we’ve got headphones on. Why? Because this is how long ago it was. We got cassette tape Walkmen. Remember the square dealies? We were thrilled. That was Santa’s gift. Kate had gotten us her own gift. Kate had pulled my parents aside the night before and she was like, “Don’t worry, Cheryl.” “Don’t worry, Elaser.” “I got your boys Jewish gifts.” My father was like, “Oh!” “Okay, um, Kate, when you say Jewish gifts, what do you mean?” And Kate’s like, “I got them gifts from the Torah.” This was Kate’s gift from the Torah. To put in our cassette tape Walkmen, Kate got us, on cassette, the cast recording of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat… …where the role of Joseph was sung by– Anybody know? Donny Osmond.

Donny Osmond, thank you. Donny Osmond. Two photos. Weird photos. Pajamas, jackets, yarmulkes, Christmas, teddy bear, yarmulke, headphones, and on the headphones, an Old Testament story from the Torah adapted into a musical by a British aristocrat where the lead role, sung by a Mormon.

It’s very interfaith. And we go to school that day because yeshiva, Hebrew day school, not canceled for Christmas. And we come home that night and my father gets a phone call. It’s exactly what you think. And the first thing the principal says to him is, “Professor Edelman, your sons have a lying problem.” My father said, “What did they do?” And the principal said, “Well, the teacher tried to explain to the children the very delicate topic of Christmas and Alex raised his hand and just went… ‘We had Christmas.'” And the teacher’s like, “You didn’t have Christmas.” And I was like, “Hmm, pretty sure we had Christmas.” “Lights, stockings, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, meaning of Christmas, spirit of Christmas. Pretty sure we had Christmas.” And the teacher’s like, “You didn’t have Christmas. You had Hanukkah three weeks ago, or four months from now, depending on the Jewish calendar year.”

Anyway… …non-Jews believe in this guy called Santa Claus. And in my mind’s eye, I see AJ raising his hand and saying, “We had Santa Claus.” And I’m wrong. The teacher came to the show. I’m wrong about two things. First of all, apparently, AJ didn’t raise his hand. Apparently, AJ lifted two fingers, in the words of the teacher, like he was “ordering his second martini”. And AJ didn’t say, “We had Santa Claus.” Apparently, AJ just went… “We know Santa Claus.” And the teacher’s like, “You don’t know Santa Claus.” And AJ’s like, “Hmm. But we do know Santa Claus.” And the other kids are like, “Who’s Santa Claus?” And AJ’s like, “Oh! He’s amazing. He’s a fat man, but it’s a good kind of fat. And he comes down non-Jewish chimneys in middle of the night, and he gives gifts to young Christians. But… But, last night, because he’s friends with our dad… …he came to our house and he left this Walkman underneath the tree that my parents put in the garage, and he ate all of the cookies.” And the principal said, “Professor Edelman, is this true?” And, apparently, my father just went, “No.”

“It… It’s not entirely true.” And Rabbi Falk said, “What do you mean it’s not entirely true?” Then my father said, “Cheryl and I ate the cookies.” “Santa Claus didn’t come to our house.” And my mom says there was a significant pause on the other end of the phone, and then the principal said, “I’m aware Santa Claus didn’t come to your house.” “You had Christmas?” And my father explained. My father explained that this woman was bereft. She had nowhere to go. And he had reservations about it, but he let it happen because he thought it was such a valuable, teachable moment, right, where he could show his children that doing the thing centered in Jewish values, the good deed, may not always appear… conventionally Jewish. Principal says, “Professor Edelman, I understand where you’re coming from but you’re wrong, ’cause what you’ve actually done is you’ve introduced this holiday, that is foreign and corrosive, into your home and you’ve clearly confused your children and perhaps harmed them permanently… …when you’ve given them this holiday. Next year, are you gonna take it away? Will you keep celebrating? What are you gonna do? And more than anything else, this isn’t a good deed. It’s idol worship. It’s the most serious sin a Jew can commit. And you and your wife need to begin atoning for it right now.” And my father, to his credit, said, “Well, clearly, Rabbi, you don’t understand the meaning of Christmas,” and then he hung up the phone. And, look, I love that story. I think it reflects so well on my parents, but there’s such a good question at the center of it, very Jewish one, actually, which is, like, to what do our empathies extend? Is it unconditional? Does it matter who they are? Does it matter how they feel about us? Does it matter why we’re empath– Does it matter why we’re empathizing? ‘Cause, for a while, I was empathizing. In this room, these people feel powerless, they feel voiceless, even if they are 1,000 percent wrong! Those are universal struggles. It’s hard to hate people up close. But once I realized I was empathizing, I was like, “Look at me.” By the way, not just empathizing.

Connecting. Once I started talking, I was in the flow of conversation so effortlessly, I thought to myself, “I’m gonna be a grand wizard in like two weeks at this rate.” I’m getting my hood tonight. Like, it’s happening. I keep making eye contact with Chelsea. That’s going amazing. But like— But now my fantasy’s not just Chelsea anymore. Now, it sort of flowered out to the rest of the room. Like, obviously, everybody here’s gonna be a table at the wedding, but like besides that, I’m– No. I’m gonna fix these people. Guys, me. I’m gonna fix them. By the time this meeting starts to wind down, my “good guy” fantasies are like a runaway train. I have spoken more than two-thirds of the people in this room. I am in. They like me. And there’s this guy sitting almost directly across from me, right where the circle gaps, and he’s sort of running the meeting. And, at some point, he was like, “All right, guys. We’re gonna take a break. Anyone who wants to get a pastry, can get a pastry. When we come back, we’ll talk next steps.” And I’m nodding at this point. I’m like, “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Next steps.” And Cortez, whose eyes have very rarely left my area, just went, “Hold on one– Brian, excuse me. Hold on one second.” And he said, “Alex?” And I said, “Mm-hmm.” And he said, “Where are you from?” And I said… “I’m from Boston.” And he said, “Cool. How long have you lived in New York City?” And I said, “Oh, I’ve been here about nine years.” And he went, “Great. What’s the ethnic origin of your grandparents?” And there was a little voice in the back of my head that just went, “Wow, that third question was so different from the first two questions.” And I was like, “Well, my father’s family is from Poland but my mother’s family… is also from Poland, actually.” And the guy starts peppering me with questions, one after the– He asks me where in New York City I live. He asks me if I live alone. He asks me how much money I make in a year. And, at some point, I got a little offended. And I was just like, “This guy’s got a problem. He’s obsessed with me. Everyone else in this room, they like me. It’s so weird that they’re not stopping him. It’s weird that he can read that.” And he’s like, “Where did you go to college?” And I was like, “I went to New York University.” He said, “What did you study?” And I said, “English Literature.” He said, “Where did you go to high school?” And I said, “I went to a school in Boston called Maimonides.” And he went, “Maimonides?” And I said, “It’s a yeshiva.” Oh! And halfway around the circle, this lady just went, “Oh, boy.” And Witt went, “What’s a yeshiva?” And I said, “It’s like a Hebrew day school.” And Chelsea, looking for any sort of out at this point I assume, just went, “Your parents made you go to a Hebrew day school?” And I said, “Kind of.” And she said, “Why?” And jigsaw lady, of course, not looking at me, of course, just went, “Chelsea!” “So very clearly a Jew.” And because it wasn’t that big a deal, I just went… “I mean, yeah.” “Yeah, I’m… I’m Jewish.” You know… people say that political correctness… is a big part of our culture, but maybe it’s great, because I think political correctness is the reason that after I said I was Jewish, there was a split second where everyone in the circle kind of looked at each other with a real energy of like… “Are we cool with that now?” “Did I miss an email or something?” “I don’t wanna be rude, but isn’t that, like, one of our big things?” And then one person starts to talk, and then another, and then… and then I realized I may have misread how welcome I am. And people are yelling, but no one’s yelling at me. They’re yelling at the guy running the meeting, and I felt a little bad for him. I was like, “They’re not gonna get to the next steps for a while, probably.”

And Cortez, this guy’s out of his seat like he’s won a basketball game. He’s like, “I told you. I fucking– So obvious. Look at him.” And I look at Chelsea. And as soon as I do, I regret it. She has such an expression on her face. She looks so aggrieved. She has an expression like a shattered and re-glued plate. She looks so upset. And I find it so hard to look at her after that. And this guy running the meeting calms everybody down, no small feat. He’s like, “Okay. Okay. No, I didn’t know.” And he said, “Alex?” And I said, “Mm-hmm.” And he said, “Why are you here?” Which, in retrospect, is an excellent question. And this is my favorite detail from the whole meeting. This is my favorite detail from the whole night. He said, “Why are you here?” And I said, “Oh, I saw this tweet that said if you have questions about your Whiteness, then come–” Before I can finish, Witt, almost brightly, just went, “Oh! That’s my tweet.” “Oh! That’s my tweet,” with a real energy of like, “See? We are reaching some new people on social media.” And even then, I was like, “Yeah, bud, I saw your tweet. And as a White man, I actually–” And I don’t get to finish that sentence. Everyone starts yelling except for– “No. You’re not White. You’re Jewish. You’re Semitic. It’s different.” Someone over here went, “He’s not even a real Jew.” And I was like, “Dad?” And he said, “He’s an impostor from the Khazars.” And I said, “Oh, I– Okay. Well, I don’t know where that is, but I am Jewish and I am White.” And everyone says, “You’re not.” And I thought this would help me. I really did. I went, “Guys. Guys, I know it’s complicated given… …given that Whiteness is largely a social construct… …but I actually benefit an enormous amount from White privilege.” And everyone’s like… “No. No. Are you kidding? Haven’t you been listening? White privilege isn’t real. White privilege is bullshit.” Someone over here just went, “You have Jewish privilege. It’s different.” I was like, “That’s so interesting. I never thought about that before. But actually, I benefit a great deal from my Whiteness.” And Cortez is incensed. He’s out of his seat. He’s like, “It doesn’t exist.” And I said, “Come on, man.” And he went, “Really.” And I said, “I benefit from it.” He went, “When was the last time you got something for being White?” And I said, “Matt, I got a free muffin for it like an hour ago.” I… I don’t wanna spoil the ending of this for you… …but Chelsea and I, we’re not gonna work out. Although it’d be so cool if I could say, “And here she is.” “Come on out, sweetie!” And she’s like, “Ah!” I actually started dating someone. I actually started dating someone a couple months after this. And when I told her about this night, the first thing she said to me, she said, “Just so you know, this is the epitome of White privilege.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Nothing says White privilege more than a Jew walking into a meeting of racists and thinking, ‘This’ll probably be fine.'” “Things usually work out pretty good for me, honestly.” “Oh, look. Muffins. Those are for me?” I’ll be out there afterwards, by the way, if anyone wants to ask a question. I answer every question. But obviously, if you’re watching at home and you have a question, I’m obscenely easy to reach on social media. Even if you hated the show, tweet at me. There’s a list I can add you to, you know? And the two questions I get the most are, one, “Were you scared?” Not really. Here’s the thing. Nazis, hmm, far less intimidating than the way that my grandfather described them. Also, they’re not Nazis. But– I hate to clarify a joke, but being a Nazi is actually such a specific thing from an extremely specific moment in history. These guys wish they were Nazis. Like, you ever see kids in the park, and they’re hitting each other with tinfoil swords? These guys are Nazis the way that those guys are the Knights of the Round Table. These are Nerf Nazis, you know? And the second question I get asked every single day is, “Why’d you go?” “Did you really go?” “My wife and I can’t believe you.” “Why’d you go?” Thought I could make it work. It’s my job. I make it work. I get on stage every night, and I am pandering and solicitous. And I hope that it’s enough to make people enjoy the show or tell a friend. Please tell a friend. And it’s gross. And there’s a huge part of me that genuinely walked into this room thinking like they’re just anti-Semites ’cause they haven’t met Alex yet. Haven’t met David Yosef Shimon Ben Elazar Reuven. This… not that different from the meeting. Not for me. I’m only telling you stuff I think you’d enjoy. Right, like, if you really knew me, you might not like me, right? There’d be a political opinion you couldn’t stand, or I’d be too something. I’d be too pretentious, or ambitious, or lazy, or too Jewish, or not Jewish enough. There’d be something. You know who I think about constantly? Robin Williams. A gift for connection no one else could– A gorilla! A gorilla was like, “Oh, my God, the talent is undeniable.”

A gorilla! If Robin Williams can make it work with a gorilla, I should be okay with 16 White people in Queens. Trying to acknowledge their humanity with this analogy, but I am aware that in this analogy, these guys are gorillas and I’m one of the greatest comics who’s ever lived. But if you think about it, who gets dehumanized? Right? ‘Cause for a second, I’m in. I’m White. Finally. Right? Childhood dream achieved. And then they find out that I’m Jewish… and the walls go up. But it doesn’t reflect amazing on me, ’cause I wanted them to like me. I was performing. I am always perform– I got kicked out of this meeting, and it bothers me… …on a craft level… …’cause that’s what happens. This guy calms everybody down and he’s like, “Okay. Okay. We’re gonna take that break and anyone who needs to leave can leave.” And even though I’m not amazing with social cues, I was like, “I bet he means me.” And this is the kind of dumb joke the whole show could have been. Everybody else… …gets up and they all move… to the far right corner of the room. And I’m getting my stuff. I look sad now. I look like I’ve lost Wimbledon or something.

I’m like, “Oh, God.” “Can’t believe they would do this to the good boy.” And Chelsea… Chelsea. Chelsea crosses this vast expanse of floor to me. And I felt so bad for her in that– I remember thinking, “Man, horrible time and place for you to discover that this is your type.” And she gets to me. She said… “You’re Jewish?” And I said… “Can you believe it?” And for the first time, it doesn’t work. And she went, “So you’re fully Semitic or partial? What’s going on.” And I said, “Both my parents are Jewish.” And she said, “That’s so interesting.” She’s very calm, actually. “That’s so interesting. You know why? Because this is a private residence.” And I said, “Well, I was invited.” And she said, “You were… You weren’t invited. You’re committing a crime right now. You’re trespassing. You can’t be here. This is just for us. Go!” So… So the next morning, call David Burstein… tell him what he missed. And he’s quiet all the way through. He just lets me talk. I talk for like 40 minutes. But when I got to this part of the story, he interrupted me. And pardon the language, but he was like, “And you looked at her and you said, ‘Fuck you, lady.’ And then you looked at everybody else in the room and you’re like, ‘Fuck every single one of you racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic assholes.'” And I was like… “Yeah.” “Of course I put a finger in her face and I’m like, ‘Screw you. And screw– Screw all your little Nazi budd–‘” But that’s not what happened. What really happened is, I got scared by the trespassing thing. And I quailed immediately, and I just went… “Okay.” And on the way out, this is so much worse, I looked at everybody else, and I just went, “Sorry, you guys!” And I left. I left. You know, I had a conversation with someone the day before this run on Broadway started and… and he said to me, “Would you go back?” “A thousand percent.” And he said, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. What, I’m supposed to lock myself in a room with people who agree with me?” “That’s how you wind up like this.” But I get his point, because whenever anyone is like, “Oh, the way to reach these people on the far right or the far left is to extend this hand of brotherhood and connection, and let them know that in the marketplace of ideas, they are welcome–” Like that’s a lovely notion. That’s how I feel. That’s a Jewish value. But some of them want us gone. And when I say us, I mean, us. Like even if you guys aren’t Jewish or a person of color, the fact that you bought a ticket to this show… …I feel bad for you guys. You guys are screwed. See you on the trains. They hate you so much. I’m glad I went. I really took something away with me. Not like a lesson or anything like that. I really took something away with me and it’s very small, but I think it’s significant. And I think it’s significant because it’s one piece from a 12,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.


♪ And I know there’s a lot Outside the window ♪

♪ Woo-hoo ♪

♪ It seems a lot For you and me ♪

♪ Woo-hoo ♪

♪ It takes the sun To make the sidewalk ♪

♪ Woo-hoo ♪

♪ It takes the moon To burn my feet ♪

♪ Woo-hoo ♪

♪ It means a lot To take some time ♪

♪ I know it’s right You gotta be good ♪

♪ You gotta be strong ♪

♪ You gotta be 2,000 places At once ♪

♪ You gotta be good You gotta be strong ♪

♪ You gotta be 2,000 places At once ♪

– ♪ You gotta be good ♪

♪ It seems a lot to show ♪

– ♪ You gotta be strong ♪

♪ You’ve got the time to grow ♪

♪ You gotta be 2,000 places At once ♪

– ♪ You gotta be good ♪

♪ It seems a lot to show ♪

– ♪ You gotta be strong ♪

♪ You’ve got the time to grow ♪

♪ You got 2,000 places ♪

♪ Whoo! ♪

♪ And time will show the way ♪

♪ And love will shine today ♪

♪ And time will go away ♪

♪ So love can grow ♪



1 thought on “Alex Edelman: Just for Us (2024) | Transcript”

  1. Cat Nygaard

    Loved, Loved, Loved this show!! Alex did a fantastic job; he put a bunch and then some, of his heart in it. I adore stand-up and am so pleased I ran across his video. I’ll be standing by for his next show. Much Gratitude Alex!!

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