A comedic exploration of Jewish identity.
Alex Edelman’s having a banner year that’s wrapping up in Detroit and Chicago. The comedian and writer makes his second-to-last stop on the national tour of his critically acclaimed solo show, Just For Us, at the Fisher Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 10.
“I’ve never been to Detroit. It’s known as a pretty good theater city, so this is a must-do for me,” says Edelman, 34.
The tour comes on the heels of his wildly successful two-month Broadway run. Just For Us was filmed live over the summer at the Hudson Theatre in NYC and will come out on HBO sometime this year. And, in another career highlight, Edelman recently hosted the Norman Lear 100th birthday special for ABC in September, just two-and-a-half months before Lear passed away.
Flying into Detroit to support Edelman and take him to some of her favorite haunts is Edelman’s good friend and Just For Us producer, Rachel Sussman.
“I’m particularly excited because I grew up seeing touring productions of Broadway shows at the Fisher with my family. Just for Us will be the first time that I’ll be back to witness a production that I had a hand in producing here in my home state,” said Sussman, who grew up in Bloomfield Township.
As a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, Sussman’s recent credits include Edelman’s show, Parade, What the Constitution Means to Me and, beginning on March 26 at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, the new musical Suffs.
Edelman first met Sussman through their mutual friend, Tony Award-winning composer Benj Pasek, at the height of the pandemic back in March 2020. Edelman and Pasek were executive producers and Edelman was also the head writer of Saturday Night Seder, a virtual program of comedy, music and sketches. Edelman and Pasek brought Sussman on as a co-producer for the grassroots effort that raised over $3.5 million for the CDC Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.
“During Saturday Night Seder, Rachel became one of my closest friends in the world. She’s a really special part of my life,” said Edelman, who grew up Modern Orthodox in Brookline, just outside of Boston.
“Alex and I bonded through that collaboration, and he asked me to come and check out Just for Us in its initial off-Broadway run in winter 2022. I couldn’t stop raving after I saw it, and we kept in touch about it through all of his subsequent productions,” Sussman said.
“After he played Williamstown Theatre Festival in summer 2022, producer Jenny Gersten and I decided to pursue the possibility of getting a limited run of Just for Us on Broadway with Seaview as our third producing partner. It all organically fell into place from there — it was bashert.”
Genesis of Just For Us
At the end of 2017, Edelman says he “went down this worm hole of antisemitism on Twitter.” So, Edelman went to a get-together of white nationalists in Queens. After about an hour-and-a-half, they discovered that Edelman was a Jew. And that was the genesis for Edelman’s third solo show, Just For Us.
“It’s a comedy show filled with jokes about Jewish identity, my family, assimilation and Jews’ place in the world,” says Edelman, who started doing comedy in high school. “The topicality of the show was a result of me removing my Jewish identity in that extreme setting and the gray space that Jews find themselves in. The essential question is what space do we occupy in the world — especially now?”
Sussman says his show is now more relevant than ever.
“It’s an impossibly dark and complicated time for Jews — so many of us are hurting and struggling with cognitive dissonance. I believe Jewish audiences are desperate for a communal, cathartic experience and comedy is the perfect antidote,” she says. “Just For Us is a living, breathing thing — there’s no fourth wall.
“Alex is directly addressing the audience, and he shares how a piece about antisemitism resonates differently right now.”
In 2008, when Edelman was 18, he went to yeshivah for a year in Israel and met David Kilimnick, who was the driving force behind Jerusalem’s Off the Wall Comedy Theater.
“I was probably the first comic to perform and host there. I helped open the place and install the sinks,” Edelman said. “It was a nice little comedy scene. That’s where I started coming into comedy a little bit. I learned a lot from the other comedians.
“It was an English-language comedy club — mostly Israelis trying to do comedy in English and a few American comics who made aliyah. It was a really weird mix of people — plus a bunch of Arab and Palestinian comics as well. It was really a delight.”
After graduating college from New York University, Edelman got really serious about being a professional comedian.
“Alex is a singular, charismatic talent with an uncanny ability to connect with people. He makes friends everywhere he goes,” Sussman said. “I have seen Just for Us more times than I can count, and I’m consistently impressed by Alex’s storytelling craft and presence. He’s constructed a compelling narrative arc with a Big Event as the central plot, but at the heart of the piece, Alex is thoughtfully examining his Jewish identity, upbringing and values, particularly empathy. So expect to laugh a lot but also come away considering your place in the world and how you move through it.”
Alex Edelman will perform his solo show Just For Us at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10. The show runs 85 minutes with no intermission. Tickets start at $50 (includes parking and facility fee) and can be purchased online at wirsindganzoben.com and in person at the Fisher Theatre box office starting at noon. For more information, go to wirsindganzoben.com.
www.JustForUsShow.com @AlexEdelman @JustForUsShow