Veteran stand-up Arnold Brown among top Jewish performers at new JW3 comedy festival

arnold brown

arnold brown - Credit: Archant

Have you heard the one about the Scottish-Jewish-accountant comedian? Inheriting a rare chance to lampoon three stereotypes for the price of one, veteran stand-up Arnold Brown jokes that at least he offers good value.

Despite having lived in Hampstead for 20 years, the one-liner specialist enjoys using his heritage and a “comedy of contradictions” to set himself apart from the likes of Michael McIntyre and Jonathan Ross in the north London entertainment elite.

Renowned for his relentless deadpan delivery, Brown candidly compares his Glaswegian upbringing to the radical chic of suburbs south of the border: “My father was a teetotaller so we had disgracious Saturday nights of him being thrown into pubs.”

He teases that “in Hampstead even the people living in council houses have a second council house in Wales” and predated the Jewish Community Centre (known as JW3) – where he hosts a chat show at the inaugural UK Jewish Comedy Festival next month – in its parody of the NW3 postcode: “I used to call it NW-twee.”

The one-night-only talk show contains improvised banter with Robert Popper, creator of Channel 4’s sitcom Friday Night Dinner, alternative comic Helen Lederer and Goodness Gracious Me star Sanjeev Bhaskar.

In his customarily left-field manner, Brown will ask each guest to share their favourite televised comedy sketches, on top of considering the ways in which comedy collides with ethnic culture and the genesis of the Jewish tradition for humour.

He largely agrees with the notion that Jews make a particularly popular contribution to comedy as a result of their history of persecution. “Being the outsider is the supreme viewpoint on comedy because it gives you a greater sense of perspective.”

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Although he is unwilling to be pigeonholed as a Jewish comedian, Brown prefers self-deprecating jokes to mainstream observational comedy. “If you do a joke in front of 10,000 people, the whole audience has to know what you are talking about. My humour is personal and comes with a cultish audience,” he explains.

Emerging as part of the 1980s alternative comedy boom, the 77-year-old spent decades sharing the stage with Alexei Sayle, Paul Merton et al at Soho’s illustrious The Comedy Store and was the first stand-up to win the Perrier Ward at the Edinburgh Festival. But Finchley Road’s own fringe appears to be his perfect gig.

Hampstead comedian David Baddiel tops the bill with his semi-autobiographical stand-up show ‘Fame – Not the Musical’ on Saturday, December 6, featuring enjoyable insights into how public recognition affects his everyday life. His critically-acclaimed performance precedes the final of ‘Jewish Comedian of the Year’ – a new amateur competition in which Brown will award the first prize alongside fellow judge Steve Bennett, editor of Chortle comedy guide.

Happily for any hopefuls, Brown has some straightforward advice for aspiring humourists: “It’s arrogant to think you can be that original, but if you can do one or two jokes that no one has ever done, that’s great. And keep the punchlines as late as possible.”

Stand-up comic and actor Gareth Berliner, resident host of JW3’s monthly comedy night ‘Hava Nagiggle’, launches the festival with an all-star evening of laughs from former JW3 headliners such as Josh Howie and Sol Bernstein on Saturday, November 29.

Other Festival highlights include celebrated comedian Ruby Wax’s humour-infused discourse on mindfulness and surviving 21st Century life, using lessons from her bestselling book Sane New World on Monday, December 1, as well as tribute events for Hollywood greats Anthony Newley, Joan Rivers and Brown’s enduring idol Woody Allen.

The UK Jewish Comedy Festival runs at JW3 in Finchley Road from November 29 to December 7. Arnold Brown’s ‘The Comedy Question’ is on Thursday, December 4 at 8pm. Visit for tickets or further details.