Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2017: Michael Shafar – Jewish-Ish

The Project‘s writer and busy comic-about-town, Michael Shafar, takes  us on a whirlwind tour of his life and observations in the few years since he took up comedy as a career in his show Jewish-ish. He’s male, Jewish, and a lawyer. Despite being born with this comedic pedigree, he has failed cultural expectations. He’s got a lot to prove.

100% at ease with a microphone and packed house, he hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. Line after line lands, perfectly timed. This is a well-honed show which flows really well. It feels artless, but a skilled jokemaster has crafted these setups and pay-offs.

Ordinary transactions do it for him. The top chess champion in this state, age 9, Shafar takes us into corners of his own life for the ironies of the human experience.  We also get an insight into the easy-going world that is the Jewish native’s. We learn about specialist schools, compulsory girlfriends, mitzvahs — as well as the many festivals that dot the year, including end-of-financial year sales (a killer line). Shafar’s lawyer-like love of language and enhanced flair for scripting good comedy shines throughout this show.

A grandchild of Holocaust survivors, he bears the weight of anxieties two generations back. A fabulous joke about not purchasing German cars has local references, as do his stories about hardline Jews who police local parks for Apex gangs! It’s so good to hear comedy about your own town.

No topic is off-reach for him, including dick stories. And feminism! He has a funny way of acting out his stories, with his hands and flashing eyes ‘talking’, too. He interrogates language, including terminology that gave ‘anti-Semitism’ but not a ‘phobia’ to describe fear of Jews, like transphobia, or homophobia. 

Shafar also riffs about uni, gluten-free people, the hell that is 21st century corporate culture, and how dumb Americans can be. This show is all about being Michael in the world, and he finds his true, ‘Aussie’ self on overseas tours. There is so much audacious hilarity we can relate to in a world filled with false promise. The audience clapped and guffawed all the way through.

You are in the hands of a stand-up expert here. Go see him to say you saw him before he becomes supersonic! I am still laughing a day later.

– Sarah
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street or in the box seat, she looks for quality works that push the envelope.

Jewish-ish runs 30 March – 23 April, 8.30pm (50 mins) at the Archives Room, Trades Hall. Purchase tickets now. The venue is not accessible.

Read The Plus Ones’ guide to MICF 2017, and visit often to see all our reviews.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Michael Shafar.
Image credit: Melbourne International Comedy Festival.