What do you get when you cross a lesbian stand-up comic with a Jewish mother?
A one-woman show, of course.
Judy Gold fits all the criteria and currently stars in "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother," playing at the Ars Nova Theater, 511 West 54th Street in New York City, through March 20.
The Emmy award-winning comedienne's seemingly opposing worlds converge as she goes on a personal journey to find love, laughter and acceptance as a mother. Tired of constantly being ridiculed by the Jewish press for the portrayal of her own mother's antics, Gold decided she would try to debunk the stereotypical "Jewish mother" myth, and find out what really makes a Jewish mother.
Gold hit the road with co-writer Kate Moira Ryan and interviewed hundreds of Jewish mothers in the United States about exactly what qualifies one as a Jewish mother. For five years they traveled from the most Orthodox New York neighborhoods to liberal west coast towns. The writing team prepared a stockpile of questions on subjects ranging from motherly advice to regrets to the concept of Jewish guilt.
"These women's stories really changed my life," said the New Jersey native in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post. "I wanted to find out if they were all like my mother or if they were like me. They all had amazing stories, and it was as if no one had ever asked these women about their hopes and dreams."
They met with all shades of Jewish mothers, from Holocaust survivors to Chinese converts. Gold said she found the one commonality they all shared was 99 percent of them spoke to their children at least once a day, and the majority said they wanted their grandchildren to be Jewish.
"We asked a lot of them if they would sit shiva if their kid married a non-Jew, and one very reformed woman asked what a shiva is," Gold said.
Throughout the play (which will be published in book form in 2007), Gold channels the women who told her their stories, foraying into her own journey through motherhood. A proud mother of two boys, she remains grounded in her Judaism while being an out lesbian.
"A lot of it is dealing with my conflict of being a practicing Jew and being gay and being a mother and being a comedienne. Nothing I do fits into a conventional lifestyle, yet I have a very traditional home with my kids," she said. "What surprised me most is that I seemed to identify most with the very Orthodox women."
Though she said she thinks her mother always new she was gay, but never talked about it, Gold said she was concerned when she came to see the show.
"It is very personal and very honest, and there is a part where something very sad about her is revealed," Gold said. "She's not a crier but was very emotional seeing how everything she did affected her daughter. She has always been a good sport because she is the person who taught me that you have to laugh at yourself."
While it is debatable whether "25 Questions" debunks the Jewish mother stereotype, for better or worse, it reinforces the fact that Gold is just like her mother.
"Its unavoidable. Fortunately and unfortunately," she said. "Comedy is really just a reinterpretation of different points of view. "I think it is similar to Judaism in that respect. Jews have been persecuted for so long. Making people laugh is the best way to fit in."