OB Review: OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES Featured
Just Possibly The Funniest Show In Town…!
May 20, 2012
Sheldon goes to a psychiatrist: “Doc, I gotta talk to someone! I work in a pickle factory and for three months I’ve had an overpowering desire to put my schlong in the pickle slicer.” The psychiatrist’s a little shocked but just nods, and says to come see him five times a week and they’ll get right to work solving the problem. A few weeks later, Sheldon comes in for a session, says that he couldn’t take it anymore and that morning he finally did it - put his schlong right in the pickle slicer. The psychiatrist says, “Oh my god, man! What happened? Are you all right?” Sheldon says, “I got fired.” The shrink says, “No, no, I mean what happened with the pickle slicer?” “She got fired, too.”
This has been a good Broadway season for laughter – I’m thinking of ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS and NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT – but nothing in town is funnier than OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES at the Westside Theater/Downstairs.
Side-splittingly, laughing-out-loud, gasping-to-get-your-breath-back funny.
A guy goes to a doctor. The doctor says, ‘I’m afraid you have Alzheimer’s and cancer,’ and the guy says, ‘Well, at least I don’t have cancer.’
The show runs 80 minutes, the jokes are non-stop, and there isn’t a clunker in the bunch. My attention never for a moment strayed, because the show movs so well, and the stories are consistently strong throughout.
This isn’t easy to do, and much credit goes to Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent, who conceived OLD JEWS, and to director Marc Bruni. This is as tight and smooth a production as you’re likely to see,. Using projections that enrich the stories, and scattering a few songs in to vary the show’s texture, OLD JEWS always feels like a real stage show, taking the humor far beyond standup.
I’ll admit that when we walked into the theater with our hosts, producer Steve Baruch and his lovely wife, Eda, I wondered whether I’d feel excluded in my WASP-ness. Of course, having grown up in L.A., lived for 22 years in New York, and worked all that time in the theater, I’d heard a lot of Jewish humor, but the title made the show feel exclusionary, which it emphatically is not.
(ROGER, JOHN, AND IRVING, ALL ARE WEARING COWBOY HATS.)
ROGER (To JOHN): How ya doin’? My name is Roger, I own 250,000 acres. I have 1,000 head of cattle and they call my place the Jolly Roger.
JOHN: Well, hey there! My name is John. I own 350,000 acres. I have 5,000 head of cattle and they call my place Big John’s.
(They both look at IRVING.)
IRVING: My name is Irving and I own only two acres.
ROGER: Two acres? What do you raise?
IRVING: I don’t raise nothing.
JOHN: Well then, what do you call it?
IRVING: Times Square.
The five actors include three old Jews – Marilyn Sokol, Todd Susman, and Lenny Wolpe – and two younger Jews: Audrey Lynn Weston and Bill Army. (PC note: Terri says I can’t assume the actors are all Jewish, and she’s right, but I’m going to, anyway.) All five are terrific, but – perhaps inevitably – it’s the older trio who really shine. Sokol can roll her tongue in ways I hadn’t thought possible, Susman looks like a bemused, stereotypical CPA who’d wandered onto the stage by mistake, and Wolpe personifies everybody’s harmless Uncle Morty. They effortlessly switch parts, with the kids often playing older “characters”.
Goldstein goes into an old New York restaurant and says to the Maitre d’, “Pardon me, how do you prepare your chicken?”. The maitre d’ says “We tell ‘em right up front they ain’t gonna make it.”
The jokes I’m including in this review aren’t the best in the show, because I hope you’ll follow my advice and go to OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES, yourself, and don’t want to tip off too much. Just as a tease, here are the punch lines from the three funniest (to me) jokes in the show:
Who fucks the stork?
The bad news is the Rabbi is a goner
I was touched by a speech near the end of the show about the importance of humor in the Jewish culture:
[My father would] tell the old jokes and I’d laugh. He thought he was doing it for me. But I know he was doing it to hold onto a little bit of himself. Now, of course, the Yiddish of even 40 years ago has largely disappeared from our society, except in wisecracks and insults and jokes. It’s these jokes that have made my connection to the past a lot easier. I tell ‘em to my gentile wife. She laughs and I pretend I’m doing it for her. But I know different. I’m doing it for myself. And for my dad. Now that I’m an old Jew myself, it’s the jokes that make me feel as if I’ve come home….
Try it, you’ll like it!
Rating (5 stars possible): ****
The bottom line: Hilarious, whether or not you’re Jewish
Who should go? Anyone who wants to laugh
Do I recommend it? Mach Shnel!