A comedian mines her Jewish family for material
Judy Gold has an endless supply of Jewish mother jokes. After all, she not only has a Jewish mother but is one herself. With two young sons, she admits to falling into some of those old stereotypes.
“You begin to speak and all of a sudden your mother’s voice comes out saying things like, ‘Why can’t I have five minutes to myself?’ or ‘Why can’t I have a moment of peace?’” she said. “It’s a pretty bad realization.”
The Emmy Award-winning comedian will tap into this reservoir of material on March 27 when she brings her shtick to her home state at the annual Main Event for the Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley in East Brunswick.
The Clark native and Rutgers University alumna spoke with NJJN in a phone interview about her career, the role Judaism plays in her life, and her professional accomplishments.
A star of HBO and Comedy Central stand-up specials, Gold is the coauthor of the book 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother and starred in an Off Broadway show by the same name. She wrote and starred in another Off Broadway production, Mommy Queerest, about her life as a gay mother, and is set to open in another, My Life as a Sitcom, in July.
Her own mother gives Gold “endless hours of material.”
“So many of my stories are about honest-to-God true things she’s said or done.” Her mother is now at the nursing home on the Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset.
Gold earned a degree in music at Rutgers, where she also got her start in the comedy business, writing jokes and performing in her dorm lounge.
She was asked to speak at her alma mater earlier this year following the suicide of a gay Rutgers student.
“I don’t have a lot of money so I can’t give a lot to charity but I give a lot of time,” said Gold. “A lot of it is for Jewish causes and equality causes.”
Gold didn’t attend Schechter, but her family belonged to Conservative Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark. She attended Hebrew school through her high school years, she said, “and hated every minute of it.”
“And now my kids go to Hebrew school and actually like it,” she said; her sons are Henry, 14, and Ben, nine.
In fact, Gold said, one of “the most amazing experiences of my life” was seeing Henry become a bar mitzva last year. The family belongs to Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan.
“We have a kosher kitchen and Shabbos dinner every Friday,” said Gold. “We’re on the Upper West Side, so it’s like living in Israel anyway.”
Her partner was a completely non-practicing Jew when they met, but now takes Hebrew lessons and enthusiastically participates in Jewish rituals.
“I think eventually she’s going to become bat mitzva’d,” said Gold. “So you see I created a new Jew.”
Like motherhood, her Jewish life is a subject of her humor.
“I have a lot of jokes only Jews would get, so I’m looking forward to doing a Jewish gig.”
In June the 48-year-old will make her first trip to Israel, where she has been invited to do stand-up.
“I think there are so many Jewish comics because we are innately taught to look at things from a different perspective,” said Gold. “Look at the rabbis studying Talmud for eight million years — and they still find something new.”