A 71-year-old woman facing intimidation by a physically imposing, powerful man wouldn’t ordinarily make national headlines. But when the woman is performer Joy Behar and the man is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, that same incident becomes fodder for everything from Huffington Post articles to The Daily Show segments.
The now-notorious confrontation occurred at a recent roast of former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne. Behar, like the speakers before her, spent a significant portion of her time skewering the Garden State’s current chief pol over the George Washington Bridge fiasco. Christie, never mistaken for someone with a thick skin, took umbrage and began approaching Behar, trying to grab her notes.
Standing her ground and showing her trademark quick wit despite appearing shaken by the encroachment, Behar ended her comments by ad-libbing to Christie, “I really don’t know about the presidency. Let me put it to you this way, in a way that you’d appreciate: You’re toast.”
The former Josephina Victoria Occhiuto — she was married to Joe Behar, a Jewish college professor, for 15 years before divorcing him in 1981 — will no doubt air her thoughts on that incident when she performs a kind of autobiographical monologue at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope the weekend of May 9. Also sure to be topics during her show: her 16-year stint at the ABC talk show, The View, her shows on HLN and Current TV and her standup career.
During a phone interview to discuss her upcoming appearance, the Brooklyn resident touched on what it’s like to seem so “Jewish.” She’s actually agnostic, but her last name has led followers to assume otherwise. And she went on to marry another Jewish man, Steve Janowitz, in 2011. So many people have mistakenly assumed that she’s a member of the tribe that she was once hired to headline a Jewish comedy festival in Long Island and once named Long Island Hadassah’s Woman of the Year.
I must need to get my Jewdar fixed, because I never would have dreamed you’re Italian.
Yesterday, someone came up to me at a Friars Club event — I was the first female roastmaster at the club — and said to me, “It’s nice to see a Jewish girl doing so well.” I did a movie, Manhattan Murder Mystery, with Woody Allen one time, where I played the Jewish wife of Ron Rifkin’s character. Before I did the movie, the film’s costume director said to Woody, “You know she’s not Jewish, right?” And Woody said, “Does she know that?”
Good to know it’s not just me. So, what happened with Gov. Christie?
It was supposed to be all in fun. When you are on the dais, you should know that you will be part of the roasting. You’re supposed to sit there with a poker face, but he got up and got in my face. I think he’s gotten over it by now.
Some people, like John McCain, wouldn’t come on The View because they said I was too rough. Dr. Ruth has hung up on me — she was on my radio show one day talking about airplane sex, so I asked her if she had ever had airplane sex. She said, “Joy, I don’t talk about my sex life!” and hung up. She called me right back, though, and said, “Joy, I forgive you.”
This is your first time appearing in Bucks County, and it is the only performance you have scheduled of this show. Is this different from your usual standup performances?
Laura Schrock, who worked with me 30 years ago, asked me if I wanted to come to Bucks County. It’s perfect for me because this is different — it’s basically a monologue. I really don’t know where it will go. It’s autobiographical, a journey of where I’ve gotten to, and I’ve only been working on it for a couple months. It’s like a piece of sculpture that keeps evolving — and it’s very funny, I hope.