If you’ve thought to yourself, “You know what television is missing? A show about a 6’3 lesbian Jew and her family,” then you’re in luck. Comedienne-extraordinaire Judy Gold‘s one-woman show, The Judy Show – My Life as a Sitcom, which played last year in New York City, begins previews Tuesday at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater in Los Angeles. HEEB spoke with Ms. Gold (@JewdyGold) about her show, offending other Jews, who she’d want to play her in a biopic of her life.
What inspired this show?
My first show, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, was based on interviews I did with Jewish mothers around the country. I had just become a mother, and I was afraid I was going to become my mother, which, unfortunately, has pretty much happened. But I just wanted to see where I fit into the world of Jewish mothers, as this very tall, gigantic . . . you know, I’m this Jewish lesbian comedian. Like nothing about my life screams out “Jewish mother.” So that show was basically me figuring out where I fit into the world of Jewish mothers, but the stories kind of changed my life. And then I knew I wanted to do another show, and this one is way more personal. It really tells the story of me, and how I grew up in New Jersey, and I was addicted to sitcoms. When I think of my family I think of my childhood, of course my family and neighborhood and my school, but I really do think of these shows that I grew up that were such a part of my life. And I grew up and became a comic and I always thought that I would be on a sitcom. And my life really is a sitcom . . . it’s just the perfect recipe. But I’m gay. They have not yet put on a family show where the main family’s gay.
Has the show been rewritten at all between the last run and the next?
Very little. Usually when we write these shows with my writing partner, that’s it. But so much has happened in the past year regarding gay marriage, that of course I have to add, but it’s essentially the same.
Do LA audiences differ from New York audiences?
It’s so funny, because no one from LA is from LA. New York is a theater town, that is the heart of the city, is the theater. I’m so used to New York audiences. You know, to me, funny is funny. New York/LA I find to be similar in a lot of ways. If I go to the South, or the Midwest, and this gigantic Jew walks in . . . if I’m going to – I’ve never been to Kansas City, so God only knows. I have to check with my mother. Wherever I’m going, I check with my mother, and so the thing is, wherever I’m going, I check with my mother, and I get the, “Eh well, there’s not many of us there.”
What are the feelings you have about working on a piece you are performing in, verses a piece you are both writing and performing?
This piece is really difficult, because it really goes through my life, and I sort of every night relive these major moments in my life, my hopes and my dreams, and my desires. But it’s definitely more personal and emotional in a way . . . you know, you often use, when you’re doing theater and you’re doing acting, you use your life experiences to create a character, but you’re using your life experiences, and you’re telling your life experiences in these shows. When I do a play, I can use other people, and do research and create these characters, but these are the only characters that are so personal to me, and telling a story that is really my story. Comics, we are so set for rejection every time we get on stage. But this, this is a play, it’s a show, it’s not stand-up, so I can’t stop in the middle and go “What the FUCK is the matter with you?”
In terms of the acting element, do you think it is more difficult, or emotionally taxing, then to play yourself, than to play a character?
Yeah, I guess so, I mean . . . how can someone direct you to be yourself? I don’t know . . . I think that they’re both difficult. It’s seems like it’s gonna be so easy when you’re playing yourself. If someone writes a script and says, “You read this as yourself,” I think it’s really hard, because then [they say] “NoI want this part of you, or that part of you,” and you’re like, “Well I don’t want to give you that part of me!” Playing someone else it’s so much easier, because you’re detached in a way.
Obviously being gay and Jewish –
YES! Let’s talk about it. Obviously being gay and being Jewish have influenced your comedy, but how do you think your being Jewish and being gay have shaped your comedy?
I think being Jewish is all of who I am; It’s every bit who I am: It’s how I speak, it’s how I think, it’s how I look, it’s what I eat, it’s what I say, it’s everything; I am a Jew. Being gay is who I love, and it’s a part of who I am. Of course they both have shaped me as a human being and me as a comic. For the first ten years as a stand-up, I never talked about being gay in their act. But you know once I had a child, I was like, “Every comic talks about their family. I’m talking about my family!” You know? I’m sure it’s shaped my career, as I also feel my outspoken Judaism has. Every manager I was ever with in the beginning was like, “Tone done the Jew.”
Oh my God. Always, “Too Jewish, Too Jewish.” And they were always Jewish. No non-Jews would ever say that. You know, the way I think, and I have a comic’s mind, I mean everything to me is a joke, everything is a fucking joke. It could be the most ordinary situation, there is a joke there somewhere. For me, I think like a comic, and I’m Jewish. I mean, look at Jews. They have these talmudic scholars who are studying the same book for how many years? I mean like honestly, you can’t join the army in Israel because you’re busy studying? And when you get Bar-Mistvahed or Bat-Mitzvahed it’s about showing another interpretation of this story that’s been told millions of times. I think we’re a thinking person’s religion in that way.
But being gay, you know, look” I’m gay! And there’s many people who are uncomfortable with gay people. Many people who come to a club and they don’t want to hear that I’m a lez, and I have kids. Well, you know what? Too bad. There’s plenty of people who go to a club, and they don’t want to hear a guy talking about his balls and his wife getting him a beer, and his wife getting her period and acting like a bitch, you know?
I think great comedy comes from the truth. It comes from pain, too. I think both being Jewish and being gay have contributed a tremendous amount. Because I’m 100% honest about who I am when I get on stage. And unfortunately in life, as well.
Was it always that way? Do you feel like you always 100% honest?
I’m kind of an open book. I do, I’m really not afraid to talk about anything. Everything was like a big secret in my family. I’d find out people died like three days later, I’m like, “Where Uncle Joe?” “Oh, he uh . . . he died.” “What?” “Oh, you had a history test.” You could always tell that there’d be whispering, and they’d talk in like Yiddish or German, and you’d hear, “Yuchun buthun JUDITH, yuchun buchun.” I’m like, “What’s going on?” There’s always STUFF going on, and I hated that. So I was just always, you know, every thought, every feeling.
Who would play you in the biopic of your life?
Wow. Who would play me? Ya know, I’m 6’3. I’m a Jew. And I’m a lesbo. I think we’re gonna have to go down the the WNBA roster.
You think you’re gonna find a Jew there? Or just somebody who could believably play it?
I’m gonna go with an African American. As my mother would say, “THERE’S PLENTY OF BLACK JEWS, JUDITH! There’s Jews in Ethiopia.”
Plenty of comedians come under fire for “stepping over the line.” Have you ever offended someone with a joke and later regretted it? Have you ever offended someone and thought they were totally crazy?
Oh yeah. you know, it’s so funny, because I’ve never purposefully offended someone. But I’m always guilt ridden. I’m like guilty ridden, guilt ridden, guilt ridden.
So here’s an example. Years ago I did a joke because these Hassidics rabbis in Burrough Park, Brooklyn, they caught convicted of laundering Columbian drug money through their Yeshiva and Synagogue. So I went onstage one night, and I said, “You know, hey, did’ya hear about those Hassidic Rabbis? They got convicted of laundering Columbian drug money through their Synagogue and Yeshiva. Well I know they’re innocent because those Hassidim don’t launder anything.” So it gets a big laugh, ha ha ha, because, you know, there’s always a soup stain on a Hassidic Jew somewhere. So I get a note, there’s a note left for me at the club: “Do you know they used to call us dirty Jews?”
And you know what? It’s so annoying, because here I am; I’m a Jew. You know, you’re in your little apartment, being lefty communist, whatever you are, and everywhere I go, Alabama, anywhere, I tell them, you know, like I’m out there! I’m never denying I’m a Jew! And like, I’m an anti-semite? So fine, I get the note, I’m like, “Oh my God, I feel guilty,” and then I’m like, “No I don’t.” And then, I’m not kidding, I’m sitting on the subway, and this woman walks on, and she’s sitting across from me, and she says, “Are you Judy Gold the comedian?” And I said yes. “You did a joke, about the Hassidim.” I was like, no! There’s no possible way of this happening! What are the odds?! And it was her. And I was like, “I thought I was getting off in a few stops, but I’m actually getting off on this stop, so have a nice night.”
I’ve gotten this stuff also, people saying, “Why do you talk about Jewish mothers like that?” I said, “I don’t talk about Jewish mothers, I talk about my mother, and that’s exactly what she said, and that’s her voice.” So if you think I’m insulting all Jewish mothers . . . it doesn’t bother my mother! She thinks it’s funny! So I don’t know what your issue is with me talking about my mother in her voice.
I’m going to guess this is other Jews you’re offending.
Oh, you know it girl.
The one thing I did, at a Howard Dean benefit years ago, this was when he was in the lead, I did a Howard Dean benefit. And while I was there I was doing my set, and at the end I said, you know, he was running against George W. Bush, and I said – “Don’t forget: We have to get that living, breathing, piece of shit out of office! Goodnight everybody!” And it was all over the news, and I was threatened. That, I was really scared. I mean, my family was threatened, it was terrible. And so, to me, it’s like, “Really?? I’m not shooting up a mall or a college or a school, you know? Get your priorities straight.” And like apparently, no one knew that he was a piece of shit until I said it.
So. What do you have coming up after the show?
Two Words: Rosh. Hashana. And then, ten days later? Yom. Kippur.