“For the best stand-ups, go to shul”

Number 49 - 2009.

On Yom Kippur I made my first visit to synagogue since my daughter’s batmitzvah in March, when, just before commencing the service, the rabbi announced “No recording equipment of any kind is allowed.”

Everything was going without a hitch, until I stood up with the rest of the congregation, and the silver cassette recorder (about the size of a 1lb packet of Tate and Lyle granulated sugar), with a 10in-long microphone attached, that I’d hidden under my chair, got entangled in my tallis and dangled there by my knee about a foot off the ground.

The rabbi was standing directly facing me; he had to have seen it, but if he did, he didn’t show it — not even a flicker. He’d make a great poker player, I thought.

So to be on the safe side, I thought it best to avoid him… today of all days.

When I arrived at the shul, a couple of young guys in dark suits were on duty outside the door.

“Good morning.” I said to one of them, a lanky young man in glasses. He looked vaguely familiar.

He looked at me. “Wait a minute,” he said, “I know you! You’re the guy who walked out of my stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe last year! You walked out, right in the middle of my act!”

I looked at him again..

It was him!

In August 2008 I’d gone to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and one night I’d gone to see a young Jewish stand-up comedian. I can’t sit down for stand-up, I’m a fidget, it was a hot, packed room — think the size of a very large matchbox.

The comedian was a funny guy, and the audience loved him, but after about 20 minutes I was so fidgety and sweaty that during one of the applauses, I made a run for the exit — but he spotted me. “I’ve got to go!” I said, diving through the door.

As I did, I heard him make a remark that suggested I was lacking in the sense of humour department.

I stopped, and re opened the door.

“I’ve got a dinner reservation!” I shouted to the audience.

And now, here he was again, standing between me and the door of the shul on Yom Kippur.

I mean, what are the odds of that happening?

It was unbelievable! And the crazy thing was that over a year later he was still upset.

I edged towards the door; he stepped in front of me.

“How can you remember that it was me that walked out of your show!?” I said.

“I remember you, it still hurts.” he said.

“Look, I’m really, really sorry I walked out. My daughter was arriving at the train station. I had to go and meet her for dinner. We had a reservation! You were very funny.”

“Really?” He said.

“Yes really. Very funny,” I said.

“Can I come in now?


“What do you mean ‘no!’? Don’t you know what today is? Yom Kippur! It’s the Day of Atonement! And here I am now, personally atoning to you for walking out of your show — come on! You’ve got to admit my timing’s good!”

Just at that moment, the door opened — it was my daughter, Lily. “Dad what are you doing? Are you coming in? The service is just about to start.”

I looked at him… he looked at me. Reluctantly he held the door open.

“Ok,” he said, “but just make sure you stay to the end.”




Peter Rosengard

October 8, 2009.