Alex Edelman’s ‘Just For Us’ Takes Viewers on a Bizarre, Enlightening Journey to a Neo-Nazi Meeting

TheWrap magazine: The comedian says he was “encouraged to go in pursuit of deeper truths,” for his Max special 

Alex Edelman
Alex Edelman, “Just for Us”

Alex Edelman’s one-man show “Just for Us” debuted on Broadway in June 2023 to rave reviews before winning a special Tony award. Now it’s a Max comedy special that takes viewers on a bizarre and enlightening journey with the stand-up comic, who is Jewish, as he covertly attends a meeting of neo-Nazis in New York City. Brimming with social commentary both hilarious and sobering, it has brought Edelman a new level of attention.

“You make something and you really hope that people find it, which is a cliché that I’ve heard other people say before, but it happens to be true,” Edelman said. “The show started in a very small room in East London, so the fact that it’s gotten to go to Broadway and it’s gotten to go to HBO and the fact that people on HBO seem to have found it, it’s such a nice testament to all the work that other people have done to make it successful.”

Your special has broken through into the mainstream. How are you feeling about being recognized for your work? 

I was walking just now in Culver City and somebody stopped me to ask me a question about some theme in the show. That’s really cool. It’s really gratifying. I did have a mouthful of granola bar… But yeah, it’s a very wonderful thing to have that. I have found an audience, and as someone who is aggressively unfamous, it speaks volumes to the strength of the show, and all credit goes to my wonderful collaborators. 

I wouldn’t say “unfamous” anymore. You’re on the 2024 Time 100 list with Phoebe Waller-Bridge writing about you.

The Time 100 event was so nice and bizarre. I made [fellow honorees] 21 Savage and Patrick Mahomes try matzah. Mr. Savage thought it was a bit dry, which it is, to be fair.

To the point of the person who stopped you on the street, what do you want people to take away from your special? 

I always think that part of the spirit of this special is — not to give you a very frustrating answer — it poses a lot of questions as opposed to offering answers, which more than one critic has noted. But I guess a good takeaway is that we should be suspicious of things that seem obvious. One of the things I liked the most about the special is that I was encouraged to go in pursuit of deeper truths for it. And also the spirit of optimism, which is probably a bit naive. 

There’s something to be said about posing more questions than answers because does anyone really have the answers?

I never wanted the show to pick the easy jokes. The show needs to stress to the audience — and I think it does this, after a lot of work and input from others — that it is bad to be a Nazi or a neo-Nazi. Also, it never treats that like that’s a brave stance. But mostly, I just want my special to be funny. 

The timing of your special is interesting, with the war in Gaza and protests on American college campuses, which have become pressure cookers. What are your thoughts about that intersection and have you thought about the show differently since October 7 [when Hamas attacked Israeli civilians at a music festival]?

I was relieved to find that the show, when it was being done live, was conversant with the moment but also an escape from it. I was performing it for months after October 7 as the humanitarian crisis and the war in Gaza worsened. I viewed some of the material differently, but the truth is, the show has always felt timely, which is maybe a sad statement. The show is about how we speak to one another.

I think right now on college campuses, we’re seeing — and I see some really heartening exceptions to this — the way we speak to each other, it’s not as productive as it could be. The dialogue around inflection points in this conflict is by and large full of rage and full of hurt. I’ve been able to find more common ground with people who come from the other side of the conflict than other people who aren’t as informed … I just wish there was more of a forum for that.

How are you going to approach this next chapter in your career? 

Well, writing a lot, but also considering some acting things I’m really excited about. Also at some point, I’ll probably do a show about Israel and Palestine. So right now I’m, like, refilling the creative well. Oh, I think that this is an exclusive: I’m going to play quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. I’m gonna be the backup to my new buddy Patrick Mahomes. If I say it enough in print, maybe they’ll make it true.

This story first appeared in the Comedy Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. Read more from the Comedy Series issue here

Larry David photographed by Mary Ellen Matthews
Larry David photographed by Mary Ellen Matthews

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