Emmy Blotnick unloads bagfuls of American Jewish laughs on her Edinburgh Fringe audience
As a rule, I don't repeatedly tell 50-odd people in a moderately sized room that "I deserve salmon" on a weekday evening, but such is the force of the Fringe and Emmy Blotnick's bubbly nature that it would have been churlish not to have joined in.
The 31-year-old New York-based Bostonian was relating how her best friend had not shown up at her flat after she had cleaned it for her arrival ("My bed is home to some of the best Indian food in the city") and specially bought some smoked salmon. Ordinarily she wouldn't treat herself to it alone, but she had been reading some self-help books and wanted to show a bit of self-love. We, whom she had identified as "a self-loathing audience in a small box", due to our initial reticence to her question, "Does everyone here love themselves?", were echoing her affirmation.
The effervescent, slightly geeky-looking Blotnick, cited as one of Comedy Central's "comics to watch", has built up a keen following back home, as was evident from the blasts of laughter from a gaggle of Americans in one corner of the room, and after nine years on the road this was her Edinburgh debut. It was a confident one, too, as she invited us to share her cheerily neurotic world view.
This included being comforted by the "community of complainers" on Amazon, getting hooked on meditation tapes and "sweating guilt" at a New York dance class with wealthy white women led by a white teacher being taught to gyrate like Beyoncé.
The American contingent lapped up her Jewish jokes, which veered from the sublime to the ridiculous. First she focused on a DNA test that showed she was "99.5 per cent Ashkenazi Jew… The 0.5 is 'other' and you know it's more Jew. How do you make a Jew this pure?"
Then she turned to a childhood episode involving her mum telling her not to reveal she was Jewish to her Catholic schoolfriends, who had a practice of "praying before playing" when it came to sport. And it climaxed in a tale about Nicki Minaj, the Queens-raised rapper being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to appear at an NYC bar mitzvah and posing with a bunch of boys like some kind of human menorah. "I wish I liked us more," Blotnick confided, alluding to the obnoxious nature adopted by certain wealthy Jews.
Blotnick, who has two older brothers, was refreshingly witty on female empowerment, saying that progress was slow and she was considering starting a #metoe movement to boost shoe-shop equality. She was also commendably frank on depression, saying she was reassured by adverts featuring Michael Phelps talking about going to therapy. "It makes me feel better, him talking about being depressed. He has 28 Olympic medals. It means achievement doesn't stop depression."
All in all, it was hard not to get swept up by in the New York-comes-to-Edinburgh moment and by the ebullience and bounciness of Blotnick's performance.
By Lee Levitt
Party Nights runs until Monday 26 August. 7.55pm. £9.50-£11.50. Underbelly, Bristo Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG. www.edfringe.com