Michael Shafar heavy on laughs in 'Jewish-ish'


The marketing for Michael Shafar’s Jewish-ish proclaims that the show is ‘stand-up comedy from the mean streets of East St Kilda.’ As an East St Kilda resident myself (and a Gentile living in the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community) I was looking forward to this show. Would it give me a better understanding of my Jewish neighbours? Would I understand all the references? How Jewish-ish do you have to be to ‘get’ this show?
Shafar’s comedy does indeed touch on his Jewish heritage but with a heavy dose of the ‘ish.’ That is to say, it’s accessible to everyone. Shafar is a writer for Channel 10’s The Project, and his stand-up is clever, informed, witty and well-crafted. His stage persona strikes a balance between awkward and at ease, and this gives him the ability to throw certain curve-balls to the audience: his blue material feels all the more unexpected, and his more benign observations feel very relatable. His story about an awkward meeting with a famous US comic is especially cringeworthy in that Curb Your Enthusiasm kind of way, and although every comic at the moment seems to have a ‘gluten bit’ (it’s today’s ‘what’s the deal with airplane food?’, Shafar’s is a particularly fresh take. He also has a gift for wordplay and verbal misdirection, like in his bit about gun control.
While he has plenty of experience on camera, much of Shafar’s professional life seems to have played out in writers’ rooms. But a strong showing in the RAW Comedy national grand final last year, a spot in the Laugh Factory’s Funniest Person In The World Competition and the confidence and tightness of Jewish-is are all indicators that Michael Shafar is building to a very enduring career behind the mic too. 
By Peter Hodgson.