ARCHIVE: Judy Gold — Mommy’s Got the Mic

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Judy Gold has whipped up something special at the Supper Club, as the Emmy-winning comedienne brings her show MOMMY QUEEREST to Tim McLoone’s in Asbury Park this week.

By DIANA MOORE (First published on Red Bank oRBit May 26, 2009)

Whenever Judy Gold takes the stage at a comedy club or appears on shows like The View, we feel that we know a lot about her. In fact, we know a lot about her because she’s never been shy about sharing the many aspects of Judy — the Jewish person (equipped with requisite Jewish mother), the gay person, the mom person, the gay mom, the gay-working-single-showbiz-mom and, last but certainly not least, the tall person (she’s six-three solid from the ground).

Under that Gold standard, the highly personalized, drawn-from-life material becomes the stuff of a cheerfully opinionated standup style — often pointed but never preachy, sometimes snarky but never destructive. She’s dynamic enough to win over all kinds of crowds, while remaining that bracingly honest, tells-it-like-it-is friend you always wished you had in real life.

It’s a way of working that’s served her well in her occasional forays into TV, from various Comedy Central programs, to projects for Logo, HBO and truTV, to a writing/producing stint on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, for which she won two Emmy awards.

Those Emmys have too many pointy edges to leave safely lying around near kids, so rather than rest on her laurels Judy took her act Off-Broadway in 2006 with her show 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother. Since last December, she’s been touring with her new one-woman performance piece Judy Gold is Mommy Queerest — a set of observations from a woman who’s herself a Jewish mother to two sons, (Henry and Ben, one each birthed by Judy and her ex-partner “Shwendy” and adopted by the other).

It’s that show that comes to Asbury Park this Thursday, May 28, for one of promoterBob Egan’s star-attraction events at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, the former “Howard Jetsons” that’s hit some stratospheric heights in its new incarnation as a cool-blue cabaret.

Red Bank oRBit spoke to Gold by phone as she prepared lunch for her co-writers — no way of telling if she wears the pink apron outside of publicity shoots.

RED BANK ORBIT: You’re returning to Asbury Park for, I think, the third time in the past year, with your Roadtrip show last summer and a previous appearance at McLoone’s…

JUDY GOLD: I always have such a great time there. Such great audiences…and the staff are all performers!

And when you bring MOMMY QUEEREST to the stage there, will it be the full-scale version or a shorter sort of revue?

It’s going to be the play; a one-woman show about being a gay mother dealing with all the issues — political, emotional, making tuna melts.

I can hear you rattling pots and pans as we speak…

I’m making lunch for my co-writers, Eric Korngold and Bob Smith — I do feed them, you know. I’ve been doing a lot of cooking; making Shabbat dinner.

But we think the show’s going to do very well. We started in December, and these shows change and change, so since that time we’ve added lots of music.

Will you have onstage accompaniment?

Yes. Her name: Judy Gold! And the music, by the way, is by John McDaniel.

Would you say this show is a natural extension of what you did in the JEWISH MOTHER show? What are some of the qualities that define the classic Jewish mother?

I don’t know if you saw 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, but we interviewed about fifty women for that show, and I think that the thing that most defines a Jewish mother — besides the accent, and the food; there’s always food around — is the bond. All of the mothers I interviewed spoke to their kids daily. Really, something like 98 percent of them had some sort of contact with their children on a daily basis — and we’re talking about kids who might be living in Israel, or Switzerland.

I think what distinguishes this deep, healthy bond from just having separation issues is, my mother, for instance, had a big tragedy in her family growing up, and it made her into a hysterical person. Every Jewish mother had something happen in their life to make them overprotective of their children.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from anybody about parenting?

The best advice came from Joan Rivers. I had been working a lot of nights, feeling exhausted, and worried that I wasn’t spending time with my child. She told me, you only have this one time with your kids. When you have the chance to be with each other, it’s not going to kill the kid to be up a little while longer, instead of having you worry about the proper bedtime. Do make the time.

A lot of people find Joan Rivers kind of scary.

I’ve gotta tell you, she’s been such an inspiration to me — she’s been so supportive to other comics. She was out there working in clubs, when the only women comedians were her and Phyllis Diller. Having an opinion, at a time when that was considered un-feminine. Comedy is still about as un-feminine a profession as there ever was. Besides pimping.

Every now and then you see the “Women of Comedy” magazine articles, but is it still as difficult for a female comic these days?

A lot of people just don’t like female comics. I worked in these clubs for over 20 years, and I am of the opinion that people who don’t like female comics, don’t like females. You’re either misogynist, or you’re not.

That can apply to a lot of the guys I went out on the road with. They’re all going around fucking waitresses; they don’t shower — but for a guy, being funny trumps everything. Even the President wants to be funny — it’s a sign of self-esteem.

Speaking of which, one of the places where I first saw you was the old showTOUGH CROWD WITH COLIN QUINN, where you were on a lot with guys like Nick DePaolo, Jim Norton…

loved doing that show! I was pretty much the only woman on the show, and the other guys always respected me. They knew I wasn’t going to fuck them — I had opinions, and I wrote my own material.

I do miss the show, but your career has really evolved since then. Would you say that MOMMY QUEEREST represents a way to reconcile the different themes you’ve been focusing on in your monologues; to show how your identity as a gay person is very much a part of your being a parent, and a Jewish mother?

At first I didn’t talk about it in my act, but I want my kids to be proud of their family. I go on The View and talk about being a gay mother — people have asked me why I spend so much time on the subject, and I tell them when I’m treated equally, I’ll shut up about it. Believe me, we want to shut up about it! That was a big part of Harvey Milk’s message; just treat us like human beings.

I mean, I have absolutely no desire to put on a fucking white dress and walk down the aisle. Just let me pass my Social Security benefits on to my partner; let me visit my partner in the hospital. Let gays adopt children.

In Florida, there’s an agency for placing abandoned and abused Jewish children with new homes. A number of gay people would love to be able to adopt these kids, only under the rules kids can be foster parented by gays — but gay couples can’t adopt. You have people who have asked their partners to move out, so they can take in abused kids. These gay people are willing to break up their homes, their relationships, to sacrifice for the chance to care for these children. It’s so infuriating, and meanwhile the Hitler family in New Jersey is allowed to stay together — although now that I think of it, didn’t the state take those kids away from their parents?

Yes, the state intervened after they got all that attention over the Hitler birthday cake.

Which Wal-Mart did for them after the other store refused to do it! The thing is, there’s someone in everyone’s life who is gay. It could be the plumber, the bank teller who you talk to a couple of times a week. Your nephew. When you put a face on things — when people are able to associate the whole concept of being gay with a familiar face, a person in their lives — that’s when people become accepting.

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