18 Things to Know About Jewish Comedian Alex Edelman

The star of "Just For Us" on HBO has received advice from the likes of Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld.

If you’ve been paying attention to the Jewish comedy space over the last few years, you know the name Alex Edelman. Edelman has established himself as the head rabbi of comedy through his solo show and HBO special “Just For Us,” a thoughtful examination of what it means to be a contemporary American Jew. (Though we at Hey Alma would like to point out that we have been fans of Edelman since “Saturday Night Seder.”)

So, here are 18 things to know about him.

1. Alex was born on March 20, 1989 in Boston to a Jewish family.

2. He’s a Pisces!

3. Though he goes by Alex, his full name is David Yosef Shimon Ben Elazar Reuven Alexander Halevi Edelman.

4. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household.

“It’s so funny because I identify as Modern Orthodox, but even the people that I’m related to are like, you’re not Modern Orthodox! You’re not strictly kosher!,” he told Hey Alma in 2021 when asked how he identified. “But I consider myself a Modern Orthodox Jew. I’ve just never been able to shake the label. Recently, someone said to me that I’m ‘ReFrum’ which really made me laugh.”

5. As a kid, he celebrated Christmas exactly one time. Here’s the adorable photo evidence:

Click here to listen to Alex tell the story on an episode of “This American Life.”

6. Alex worked for the Boston Red Sox from ages 13 to 18!

7. He started trying stand-up comedy as a teenager.

“I went to a music open mic at a pizzeria near my house, because I was like, I can’t go to a comedy club. I’ll get killed,” Alex told Hey Alma. “It turns out you should go to comedy clubs; music open mics are terrible ideas. I bombed my ass off. I rollerbladed to and from the show, so after I bombed I rollerbladed home. I was like 16 or 17 and I bombed so hard.”

8. After high school, he attended yeshiva in Israel. There, he helped establish Jerusalem’s first comedy club Off the Wall Comedy.

9. He graduated from New York University.

10. His favorite Jewish tradition is arguing.

11. In 2020, Alex was the head writer for “Saturday Night Seder,” a star-studded streaming benefit for the CDC Foundation. In 2021, he called it “the best creative experience in my life.”

“When we were writing ‘Saturday Night Seder’ I was super militant about, like, no bubbes, no briskets, no bagels. I didn’t want this very superficial engagement of old school, mid-century Judaism,” Alex explained to Hey Alma. “Because I think that gets in the way of really, really getting into it, and wondering what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century in the United States. I really like seeing people who are younger than me, and my age, examining their Judaism in a thoughtful way.

12. If you’re a millennial or zillennial with no hope of ever owning a home, Alex’s Comedy Central set is for you:

13. He’s dated fellow comedians Katherine Ryan and, more recently, Hannah Einbinder.

14. He collaborated with Hey Alma on an inanimate objects version of our beloved Instagram game Jew or Not Jew!

15. At the end of 2017, Alex attended a meeting of white nationalists in Queens, New York. His experience as a Jew in a room full of Neo-Nazis became the basis for his solo show “Just For Us.”

16. Alex started writing “Just For Us” in 2018 and first premiered it at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He’s since performed the show on Broadway, Off-Broadway, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, on London’s West End, at Just for Laughs Montreal and more.

“Antisemitism has never not been in style. In 2018 everyone was like, God, the show is prescient. There’s so much antisemitism around. And I’m just like, it’s never going away. I could’ve been doing the same show in 1984 and people would’ve been like, on the heels of XYZ, this is so timely,” Alex told Hey Alma in 2021. “The show’s not quite a rumination on antisemitism. But there are little ground-up zests of what I’ve seen or what I think people have experienced.”

17. Some of Alex’s comedy heroes have given him notes on “Just For Us.”

Steve Martin gave me a tag [for a joke], Stephen Colbert gave me a performance suggestion and Jerry Seinfeld pointed out something that got a laugh every time but was really a flaw of the show,” Alex said in an interview. He added, “Billy Crystal gave me the advice to move from a handheld [microphone] to a headset, which I wasn’t sure about because I thought the show would lose its stand-up roots.”

18. After “Just for Us” debuts as Alex’s first HBO special, he’s done performing the show.

“Part of the reason this show is ending is because I can’t do it anymore,” he told The LA Times. “Doing it can be a wrenching experience, but I’ve loved it.

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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