Reasons to see 'Alex Edelman: Just For Us' on Broadway

This solo stand-up show makes its Broadway debut after three Off-Broadway runs, and its unbelievable story makes audiences think deeply while laughing nonstop.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Call it fuzzy math, or, better, funny math. The formula behind Just for Us, the first must-see production of the 2023-2024 Broadway season, goes like this: one standup comedian plus 75 minutes equals a clown car’s worth of laughs. So it goes for Alex Edelman, a comic and writer in his 30s whose Orthodox Jewish upbringing in Boston informs every facet of the tale he tells about one of the most unbelievable days of his life: when he attended a neo-Nazi meeting.

Seen in earlier runs in London, Edinburgh, Washington, and off Broadway, the show arrives on Broadway with perfect timing. After all, we could all desperately use a laugh right about now. Here are other reasons this show is just for you — and for everybody.

Just for Us is a dazzling high-wire act.

Solo stand-up comedy is about as perilous and elemental as theatre gets. It’s a lone storyteller face-to-face with an expectant audience and nowhere to hide. Yikes! In Just for Us there’s nearly no set, just a few stools. No fancy costume, just a basic shirt, pants, and sneakers. No special effects, just some lighting cues. No props, save for a tiny thingamajig (no spoiler!) to punctuate a key moment.

Edelman’s work is an object lesson in how to ace the challenge, and his signature idiosyncrasies are part of the appeal. He’s constantly on the move, shifting from one side of the stage to the other like a target in an arcade game. His restless energy is contagious.

Just for Us shares a truly amazing story.

The heart of the show beats around an anecdote that’s so nutty – if not risky for someone who’s Jewish – it has to be true. Edelman builds the piece around the time he attended a meeting of white supremacists in Queens, New York.

The get-together begins benignly. He tucks into refreshments. He shares a meet-cute moment with a young woman that almost – just almost – makes him forget that she’s a bigot. The group discussion naturally turns racist. All the while he listens, feeling empathy, if not sadness, for the company he’s keeping.

That changes when his identity comes out and he lands in the hot seat. Unsettling? You bet. And he mines it for every bit of humor.

Just for Us showcases the art of storytelling.

Edelman’s show, directed by his late collaborator Adam Brace, is an invigorating reminder that how you tell a story matters just as much as the tale itself. Edelman takes the scenic route, a winding and circuitous path that makes the presentation all the more compelling.

He surrounds the main event with seemingly goofy tangents (one is about Robin Williams and a gorilla, for instance) and childhood memories (one is about celebrating Christmas for the sake of his mom’s friend). Initially, these narrative detours and pit stops seem arbitrary. But in the end, Edelman tidily ties all these narrative threads together. We get more than a story. We get to know what makes Edelman tick.

Get tickets to Just for Us on Broadway.

The goal of any standup comedian is to elicit laughter. Alex Edelman does that – and then some – in Just for Us. What makes the solo work even more special is that he also makes you think while he keeps you in stitches. The show runs through August 19 at the Hudson Theatre.

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

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