'Alex Edelman: Just For Us' review — solo show is better and funnier than ever on Broadway

Read our five-star review of Just For Us on Broadway, the solo comedy show running at the Hudson Theatre through August 19 after multiple Off-Broadway runs.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Did you hear the one about the Orthodox Jewish standup comedian who crashes a meeting of white supremacists and turns the incident into the nucleus of his one-man show that’s now on Broadway?

That’s the two-second backstory of Alex Edelman’s tangy, topical, and, best of all, laugh-out-loud solo work, Just for Us. It’s that rare theatrical production that doesn’t just live up to the hype — it exceeds it.

After extending numerous times off Broadway last year, the roughly 75-minute piece is now at the Hudson Theatre. Just like for the venue’s former resident, A Doll’s House, the stage is bare. But the turntable used for that play is gone.

Edelman does the all spinning here as he displays his irresistible gift for storytelling, comedy, and capturing theatregoers’ undivided attention. This was my introduction to the show. Count me in as an instant admirer.

Edelman’s narrative approach recalls the comedian Mike Birbiglia, a producer here. Edelman shuns a straight line. He takes detours, roundabouts, cloverleafs, you name it. Still, his story feels seamless. Adam Brace, who died earlier this year, is credited as director. Alex Timbers is a creative consultant.

Edelman’s shirt, paired with plain pants and white sneakers, is fastened to the tippy top. But there’s nothing buttoned-up about him. He’s rarely still. He’s kinetic, crossing from one side of the stage to the other. He’s constantly raking his hand through his hair.

Comedy is about timing. He doesn’t rush to get to the main event in his story – that anti-Semitic meetup. Instead he begins with a seemingly arbitrary anecdote involving Robin Williams and a gorilla that learned American Sign Language. The point? The late celebrity’s comedy was so momentous it crossed “the species barrier.”

Edelman, meanwhile, claims his brand of humor is “so dumb and small.” It isn’t. At all. But it is very personal. It’s about his Jewishness, about his whiteness, about his family.

There’s a bit about his brother becoming a winter Olympian in the sport of skeleton, which he describes as combining an icy hill and a lunch tray. He recalls how his devout Jewish family celebrated Christmas for the sake of his mom’s friend. There’s a reference to growing up “in this really racist part of Boston called Boston.” Anti-vax friends also get their moment. As he mines and massages his life into funny business, it hits me: He’s "The Marvelous Mr. Edelman."

He eventually settles into how he responded to an online invitation to attend a meetup in New York City for folks questioning their whiteness. Turns out, no surprise, he was the lone Jewish person in the room.

Arriving at the Queens apartment where it was held, things seem benign enough. There are pastries and juice. There’s a woman working a massive jigsaw puzzle, an activity rich in metaphor as Edelman pieces together his show. It’s all fun and games – until the attendees recognize someone who doesn't belong.

Edelman, a fish out of water, flirts with a girl who he knows is a bigot. He listens as talk turns to mixed-race Meghan Markle marrying into the royal family. He clenches when someone mentions that “Jews are sneaky and they’re everywhere.”

He admits he feels empathy – right up to the point where he’s outed for being Jewish and is asked to leave. This meeting, he’s told, is "just for us." Maybe Edelman thought others in the room would just see Alex, not Jewish Alex. But he couldn’t cross the species barrier.

Nonetheless, Edelman leaves the get-together richer. He’s got great material and, he slyly reveals, a tiny yet powerful token of revenge.

Alex Edelman: Just for Us is at the Hudson Theatre through August 19. Get Alex Edelman: Just for Us tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

Photo credit: Alex Edelman in Just For Us on Broadway. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Originally published on

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