By Leslie (Hoban) Blake
“25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” Judy Gold’s auto-biographical off-Broadway comedy, is the product of Gold’s more than five years of cross-country travel, playing comedy gigs. From the answers to such questions as “What would you have been without children” or “How are you like your own mother,” they have constructed an evening of Anna Deveare Smith-like monologues with Gold playing herself and a dozen others characters.
On the first day of rehearsal she rode her bike the few blocks from her own Upper West Side home to discuss the show over breakfast. As she doffed the helmet covering her mane of red curls and sat down, she was excited and hungry.
“By the end every night, people realize I’m just like them and some even come back again because they want to bring someone else to have the experience.”
Rehearsals were beginning the week before her son Henry’s tenth birthday—her other son Ben is five. The timing is significant since it was because of her boys as well as her own fraught mother-daughter relationship (during her adolescence, she and her mother communicated almost exclusively through a series of Ann Landers’ clippings taped to the refrigerator door) that Gold decided to find out if/how perhaps she was becoming or had already become her mother. Henry and Ben are also the main reason she decided to come out publicly in her work. “I hadn’t wanted to be known as a gay comic, but as a comic who happens to be gay,” Gold explains. “For this show, I wanted to find out if there really is just the stereotypical Jewish mother we all kid in our acts. And what I found out changed my life.”
So how does the experience of this show differ from her years of stand-up? “I learned that comics don’t really listen, while actors react and become part of an ensemble.”
One of the show’s episodes involves a family secret that her mother revealed only a few years ago for the first time.
During the show, Gold also talks about how her closing off-color political remark at a Howard Dean fund-raiser in 2003 got her nominated as a ‘Homeland Security Threat’ attracting “a lot of hate mail and a couple of death threats.” In reality, while her act was never particularly political, her very existence as a lesbian mom makes its own statement these days. While 25 Questions was being work-shopped, Gold says, “I kept it from my mother, after all, it’s so very personal. But now she’s seen it a few times and she loves it. She says, ‘I want residuals. After all, you’d be nothing without me!’”