As a pro-Palestinian activist, Jewish comedian Ivor Dembino has visited the occupied territories three times. As well as experiencing the conflict ‘really close up’, he also met Arabs who were totally unfazed by the claim that the Holy Land was given to the Jews by God.
“That’s nothing - it was given to us by Great Britain.”
Hendon born and bred (“I’m just a Jewish boy from Hendon. My parents were refugees. From South London.”), Ivor is the founder and resident host of the Hampstead Comedy Club, now in its 18th year and one of London’s most popular small-scale comedy venues.
Ivor uses the traditional flavour of Jewish humour to tackle tricky subjects - like the Arab-Israeli conflict in an aptly titled one-man show, This Is Not A Subject For Comedy, which traces Ivor’s trajectory from his 60s Jewish childhood in Hendon to his troubled rejection of his parents’ Zionism, to his pro-Palestinian activism in the West Bank.
“It’s a story with jokes,” he says, “as opposed to stand-up comedy per se. It’s my own view of how the Middle East conflict has altered the course of my life.”
Ivor has performed the show at the Edinburgh Festival, in Australia, in the Middle East in a city under occupation, and at the Houses of Parliament.
This month, Ivor is presenting the show as the second part of a double bill of Jewish comedy. The evening starts with Old Jewish Jokes, a celebration of traditional Jewish humour.
“I want to marry the two parts up, celebrate the old traditional jokes - the Jewish mother, the businessman, the synagogue - and then keep the flavour of that but use it to address something very modern. It’s an evening as a whole - Jewish humour, but two different sides to the same coin.”
Old Jewish Jokes and This Is Not A Subject For Comedy are on at the Hampstead Comedy Club, Gloucester Avenue, Primrose Hill on Thursday, February 9 and Thursday, February 16 at 8pm (doors open at 7.30pm). Details: 020 7633 9539, www.hampsteadcomedy.co.uk