Judy Gold's mother is the mother of all smotherers, and she tells you why in "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother," an off-Broadway hit off to Philadelphia, where it opens a limited run Dec. 11 at Philadelphia Theatre Company's Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
Limited run? Mrs. Gold's daughter … limited? Bite your tongue, unless you want Mrs. Gold on your case. But then "25 Questions," without question, is a comical case of why "Father Knows Best," but Moms know better.
And who better than Judy Gold to explain it all in 25 questions or less? The caustic comic and Kate Moira Ryan co-wrote this one-woman show of a thousand observations, as Gold toured the country questing for questions — and maybe an answer or two — as to why Jewish mothers are the way they are.
Or are they? Mother's daze — each and every one interviewed shows why one shouldn't turn up the volume on stereotypes, especially after 11 p.m. (And put a sweater on!)
But then, Gold — at 6 ft., 3 inches — isn't fazed by tall orders, and she doesn't give short shrift to any of those whom she interviewed — including herself: Towing two towheaded tots around by the apron strings is a challenge, whether on the stage's apron or the one used to wipe your hands off of the world's mishugas.
But then, Gold's kitchen cabinet is carved out of a cadre of friends that this 46-year-old, single, lesbian mother relies on for laughs and love — even as she pokes fun at herself for being in the Pokemon set: "As scary as it was being raised by one Jewish mother, I have to feel for my kids because they have two Jewish mothers."
Separated but equal; Gold and her companion are separated, but only by feet — they live in the same apartment complex — says the Newark, N.J.-born comic whose own "feet were so big [as a kid] I had to go to the big woman's shoe shop."
She's not shopping for pity, but punch lines she earns aplenty, especially for this show and her newest one, "Mommy Queerest."
Keep it gay — but childhood was somewhat of a challenge. "It was hard to get it out of her," she says of her mother coming out with compliments for her daughter.
But, now, turn the page on that relationship. Mom even "loves the book," based on the play, says Gold.
"And now she's at a Hebrew home [for the aged] and wants me to do my show there."
Just shows ya, says Gold, you can star off-Broadway, win two Emmy Awards (as writer/producer on the late "Rosie O'Donnell Show"), take on a multitude of movies with "HBO at the Multiplex" and handle that "Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn," but you'll never be tough enough to take on your own mother.
But Gold gives as well as she once got. "My kids wanted to know what they could give me for my birthday. I told them: 'I'd like you to get along for a week!' "
Peace and Quiet, Please!
That makes for good stage presence, too, as Gold rings up memories in addition to anecdotes culled from questioning mothers across America on stage.
But, as hard as Barack Obama has to convince constituents he's an agent for change, he never came up against Judy Gold's mother. "With my mother, everything's a secret," sighs her daughter of growing up where a family's dirty laundry could hide from intensified Tide.
"I tell her, 'It's not the '20s and '30s; we don't have to hide from the Nazis!' "
Read into it what you will, but for daughter Judy, life is not an eternal guest spot on "I've Got a Secret." "Me? I'm an open book!"
Just book her for a performance and see, which is one reason she got hoots and hollers of laughter while appearing on a panel about Jewish comedians some years back right here at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
She has a history of tell-it-like-it-is and maybe the way-you-wish-it-weren't. "Oh, I won't let my kids see me on stage; I curse. It's inappropriate for kids."
Appropriately, her kids must cherish the fact that Mom runs her mouth for a living. "Henry — he's 12 — he thinks I'm not cool. He does a disclaimer about me when he brings his friends over the house. He loves Sarah Silverman."
Silverman and Gold, Gold and Silverman — two of the top single, Jewish female jesters today; both jokers are wild in their own ways.
Got that, Henry? "I tell him, 'I am cool! Start looking at your friends' mothers, and you'll see how cool I am.' "
But for now, she has to chill, because it's time to plan his Bar Mitzvah and, says Gold, after you've been to other kids' big days, raising the bar is to be expected. "These days, you're supposed to rent out Yankee Stadium and meet all the Yankees," she carps and kids.
Not enough room at the bimah, she beams of her plans. Her home plate will be filled with kosher comestibles. "No big parties; just a nice brunch."
Her mother must be so proud — not that she wouldn't be anyway. She's supportive and a super-booster of her daughter — as is Gold's own synagogue. "It was in the temple newsletter: 'Congratulations on your being gay!' "
Isn't it every Jewish mother's hope for her son to become — a doctor!
But not just a doctor — a comedian!
The doctor will humor you now? "Well, ya, I guess my mother should be happy," kids Todd Glass, the cutting-edge comic whose out-there attitude has made him one of the "in" observers of the world scene from a stage skewed to the off-the-wall.
"Not that she ever wanted me to be a doctor; she's the kind of Jewish mother who only wants what's best for her kid."
Nobody does it better. With an M.D. to his name … wait, a minute: Comedy may be the best of therapy, but that M.D. stands for Mirth Delivered — which is what the native son is doing this weekend, performing through Saturday night at the Helium Comedy Club in Center City.
As for that doctored bio … "My dream," he says of a TV series he's readying called "Dr. Todd," which "would be like Larry Sanders meets Dr. Phil," a self-help program for those with cracks in their funny bone.
Cracking up audiences is what Glass has glommed on to for years, whether opening on Broadway for Patti LaBelle, being a regular schtickler on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night TV talk show, hosting his own Comedy Central special or proving indeed that it's not TV, it's HBO, and this is Todd Glass appearing on it.
What the world needs now is … Todd Glass? "That's another project," he says of a proposed series, "Todd Glass Saves America."
He saves the best for laughs. "Know what I'd like to do on that show? What Oprah does — whatever she wants to do, she does."
What he does is a party-of-one rave. "I want to talk about cell-phone etiquette," he says ever so politely. A strong male voice on voice mail? Yes, he proclaims, something should be done about this conversation interruptus that erupts on trains, planes and automobiles.
"And I have staunch views of how people raise their kids," says the 40ish single guy. "Have you noticed that we are more advanced technologically than in the way we raise our children?"
He raises a good point, and he makes them with spirit and a spunk that would liquefy Lou Grant's heart. Granted, he can carry a point to the stage, but, then, that's what the Glass crowd craves.
When "Scene" first saw him perform many years back, it was at the Aspen Comedy Festival, where a career could snowball as quickly as snowboarders could find an après-ski party to attend.
Building ice castles out of Glass-capades: Glass got up to perform, announced his dissatisfaction with the audience, threw down his mic and lay, prostate, on stage for five minutes.
The stand-up as lie-down? He got a standing O for his efforts.
And then, later, there was the time he gave hell to a heckler. But, she started it, talking out loudly in the audience while others performed.
Sure, Glass jaws, but he can take it and dish it out, too."I was sitting in the audience, waiting to go on, and all I did was lean over and say, 'Shoosh,' a nice shoosh, nothing loud, not mean, I even made that [apologetic] kind of smile while saying it to be nice."
When the shoosh hit the fan: Her response — what she called him — was uncalled for, he recalls, and Glass, the verbal gladiator, gladly let her have it (lesson? Don't spar with Spartacus!) once he took his turn on stage.
Turns out it's one of the more-popular YouTube moments, too, visual vindication for anyone who ever had trouble making out what Marcel Marceau was saying because of audience chatter at his shows.
"When she did that to me, my heart started beating so strong," says Glass of the club close encounter of the unkind.
"I thought, how many people has she made cry with her rudeness? She got what she deserved!"
And Glass does, too — gigs aplenty and acknowledgment from other comics that he can best the best.
Well, maybe not all the time. He didn't capture the title of "Last Comic Standing" — twice. But the very fact that he was self-admittedly a lousy house guest — the NBC series' comic finalists had to share the same quarters — dropped a dime on his chances.
But he gained enough attention to generate more followers of Glass's genius for genuine comic angst, much of which can be found and heard on "Comedy and Everything Else."
"That's so cathartic for me," he says of his off-and-running online Web site that proffers his warped-speed humor to share with listeners, as he shares his thoughts with co-hosts Jimmy Dore and Stefane Zamorano.
Todd Glass … pod person? Invasion of the body snickers?
"We bounce around," he says of the trademark trampoline trajectory of the jests he and guests trade, reflecting somewhat his admission that "I'm a [Howard] Stern fan."
But don't expect to hear Bobba Toddie on this show; his is a distinct voice that Glass uses to shatter myths and miffs.
But sometimes, a comic has to know when a sleeper is a goner. And while his "Todd's Coma" — on which he played a stand-up comatose, as friends (celeb guest stars) and family recalled his salient points in skits — now sleeps with the fishes, many were hooked on the idea, including Adam Sandler, whose company Happy Madison produced the pilot.
Happy? Yes, a clear-cut Glass concedes of his career.
"What do comedians do, but tell the truth?" And, to tell the truth, he says, "What better job than getting paid for it?"