A gay twist on Jewish mother jokes

Judy Gold has followed up last year's show, ''25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,'' with ''Judy Gold Is Mommy Queerest.'' Judy Gold has followed up last year's show, ''25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,'' with ''Judy Gold Is Mommy Queerest.'' (Carol rosegg/file 2007)
By Joel Brown
Globe Correspondent / December 30, 2008
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Maybe it's a sign of progress in society that Jewish mother jokes just sound like Jewish mother jokes, even when they're told by a 6-foot-tall, very-much-out lesbian comedian.

Friday night at the Calderwood Pavilion, "Judy Gold Is Mommy Queerest" sometimes seemed like two shows. One was a my-mother-drives-me-crazy standup routine that you might have heard on Johnny Carson 30 years ago, except for the F words. And the other was an edgier one-woman show about Gold's life as a lesbian and a mom herself in a society that doesn't make either role easy.

Moms are universal comedy material for their children, of course. You didn't have to be a Jewish lesbian to cackle in recognition at Gold's account of her mother's fear of talking on the phone during a thunderstorm. (Sorry, mom.)

But as funny as they were, most of the mother jokes landed exactly where you'd expect. Even Gold's delivery seemed more shticky when she was telling them: The slow burn leading toward a shriek of outrage, followed by a can-you-believe-it head shake and an is-it-any-wonder-I'm-crazy eye roll while the laughter subsided.

There was, for sure, plenty of laughter from the supportive crowd. They applauded "The View" with only a little less enthusiasm than gay marriage.

But Gold's show was more interesting when the punch lines weren't predictable. Gold and her former partner of 20 years each gave birth to one of their two sons. Her ex had a caesarean section and, Gold said, "I had the vaginal delivery, because I'm the guy." Try to parse that one for a minute.

I wanted to hear more about the cattiness and curiosity of other mothers at Gold's sons' school, more about the ironies of being a lesbian mom raising sons, more about being interviewed on "Nightline" about her sexual awakening - with her mother, no less.

A camera on the front of the stage gave Gold the chance to put members of her audience on the big screen behind her - and on the spot. But except for cheerfully tormenting one young woman sitting in the front row with her parents, Gold didn't make much use of it.

Toward the end of the 85-minute show, Gold vented about being a gay mom in a society that won't let her marry the love of her life, yet legalized the union of the New Jersey couple who named their kid Adolf Hitler. Bristol Palin and George W. Bush replaced Gold's home movies and shots of the audience on the big screen in those final few minutes. It felt as if Gold was sharing what's really on her mind these days, instead of spooling out long-honed standup material.

Finally she told us where the show's title came from, and it was the sweetest and most heartfelt moment of all.

Jewish mothers and sexual politics are inextricably intertwined in Gold's "complicated-ish" life, and both belong in this State of the Judy Address. She could shift the balance a little, though. Give us more about the challenges and rewards of being mommy queerest, and a little less daughter dearest.

JUDY GOLD IS MOMMY QUEEREST Directed by: Damon W. Arrington

At: Huntington Presents at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through Dec. 31.

Tickets: $20-$45, 617-266-0800,

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