Comedy Fringe

Old Jewish Jokes — Review

Venue: The Counting House

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Old Jewish Jokes is exactly what it says it is, and yet, despite being a hundred percent sure of the contents of the show, there are times you might feel let down by this well-rehearsed Edinburgh favourite.

Ivor Dembina’s show was awarded Pick of the Fringe in 2019, so expectations are high as we settle into a half-full Counting House. Our host for the evening is charming and practised, although at points the routine feels a little too rehearsed, pauses dragging on instead of leaving us wanting more. Audience participation, in the sense of ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, is encouraged, but the show is mostly scripted and has limited room for interactions. Of course, none of this means it can’t be a gut-buster, but there is a lethargy to certain parts of the set that takes away from the momentum Dembina builds.

He structures the show cleverly around the story of a disastrous performance at a synagogue. The main narrative of the show is interspersed with numerous jokes taken from a massive and well-leafed copy of Old Jewish Jokes. Dembina gets in plenty of edgier material too, covering the topics that didn’t make it to the synagogue set, including his issues with Israel, finding humour in the Holocaust, and the touchy subject of Jewish people and money. He handles these jokes sensitively, although he brushes right against the edge sometimes. In these sparkling moments, it’s easy to see why this show has been running for such a long time. 

There are many laughs to be had in Old Jewish Jokes, although it doesn’t quite live up to its hype. The show shines when Dembina adds a more modern spin to things, but just as it’s building up a head of steam we’re slowed down by repetition of a phrase or a classic-formula joke. While there’s a lot of good humour in Old Jewish Jokes, it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s nearing the end of its run. 

Dates: Old Jewish Jokes is running at Bar 50 at 18.45 on 19th and 20th August after a successful run at The Counting House.
Image: Old Jewish Jokes