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Interview: Judy Gold

"Mommy queerest" sounds off
By JIM SULLIVAN  |  December 19, 2008


She stands 6' 3", and she's Jewish, a lesbian, and the mother of two boys. Some of this may be obvious, but stand-up comic Judy Gold likes to get the facts out right away. "I just want it out, over, and we're done. It's like you're at a party and think that guy has a twitch, and that's all you focus on. And if the guy said, 'Yeah, I have a twitch,' then you'd be done. There are more important things. I'm very aware of how I look and who I am, and I'm very comfortable with it."

Gold, who's now 46, won Emmy Awards in 1998 and 1999 for co-writing and producing The Rosie O'Donnell Show; she's acted on Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU, and this Monday (December 22) she'll make her fourth appearance on The View. Last year, she was at the Calderwood Pavilion with a one-woman show, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, in which she took on different characters and balanced saucy humor with poignancy. She still does that show, which she wrote with Kate Moira Ryan, but what she's bringing to the Calderwood this time is Judy Gold Is Mommy Queerest, a 70-minute stand-up comedy show. She lives in New York with her lover of two years, therapist Elysa Halpern. "How perfect is that? My older son Henry said, 'That's great, Mommy, now you can have therapy 24 hours a day!' "

As with Kathy Griffin, your mother factors hugely in your act. She's opinionated, old-fashioned, and contrary — a frequent butt of jokes. But you love her. It seems a complicated relationship.
It does have many layers. The most important thing is, she does not get upset and loves being a part of the act. And I don't think many parents get to see themselves through the eyes of their child. She does provide me with a lot of material, not knowing that she's doing it. Joy Behar told me, "You know, Judy, once she goes, you're gonna have to get a new act." Thanks, Joy. It's funny because I get my sense of humor from my mother, and I see everything I can't stand in her in me, and I acknowledge that. But she's elderly and she can't come to the shows anymore, and that's the sad part. I do call her every day before and after the show.

How doesMommy Queerest differ from25 Questions?
It's a lot of storytelling and stand-up. Basically, it's about being a gay mom and growing up with my mother. It is pure laughter. But a lot of it is based on a lot of rage because of how unfair society is. I have to say stand-up is really the best way to process rage.

On a scale of 1-10, how pissed off are you that Proposition 8 passed in California?
Five hundred million. We protested in front of the Mormon church [after it passed], and my son was carrying a sign that said, "My two moms can beat up your 14 wives," and [we had] another sign that said, "My mom's a little bit country and my other mom's a little bit rock and roll." It's really interesting to watch my kids. My children have no idea why we can't get married. I want people to see this show and think, 'Okay, she's gay, but we have the same issues, the same parent-child thing, my mother's annoying too . . . ' " In my act, we always hear the other side, in a funny way, coming from my mother: "Why do you have to talk about it all the time?"

Did you wrestle with making your sexual orientation so central to your act?
I was never going to be a performer who likes to not talk about being gay. But I thought it was boring, I didn't really have anything funny to say, and I didn't want to pigeonhole myself as a gay comic. But having kids was huge. I don't want my kids to think — ever — that there's anything wrong or different about their family. The only way I can do that is act like this is normal. And I feel that way. I am not ashamed of it, and they should be proud of their parents as well. And now I'm in a great relationship, too.

How is doing comedy in a theater different from a club?
First of all, it's different because they come as an attentive audience. In a club, you have to fight to get their attention and fight to keep their attention. Good stand-up translates incredibly well into a theater. I'm not fighting against people listening to bartenders and waitresses and blenders. I am speaking to an audience who can read and think.

  Topics: Comedy , Stand-up Comedy , Judy Gold , Judy Gold ,  More more >
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