Comedy in the age of Trump

Veteran comedian Judy Gold talks humor, politics, activism and about being both a Zionist and a liberal.

Judy Gold (photo credit: Courtesy)
Judy Gold
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Comedienne Judy Gold likes to think of herself as a line crosser. In her decades-long career, Gold has never shied away from making jokes about controversial topics.
And that, she said, hasn’t changed since the election of US President Donald Trump. But the atmosphere for political humor has.
“When the zeitgeist changes, a comic has to change with that,” she told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview. “I think often it’s our duty to address what’s really on people’s minds – and a good comic has a point of view.”
Gold said many comics opt to stay away from political humor entirely – but she sees herself as a comedienne and an activist and has no problem with the combination.
“You have a microphone, and sometimes I think we have to really be careful how we use that voice, because we’re comics,” she said. “A lot of comics use what’s going on in the world as fodder, for their acts and their material... so it’s like the elephant in the room all the time, every time I get on stage.”
Gold, 54, has been doing stand-up for decades, has guest starred on TV shows like 30 Rock, Louie, Sex and the City and Ugly Betty, and has written and starred in two critically acclaimed Off-Broadway shows. She’s pretty much seen it all – but the Trump administration has tested her humor.
“It’s hard [to be funny] when it’s coming from that bleak, horrible place – when it comes from fear,” she said. “Fear is not funny.”
The Trump administration, she added, is uniquely lacking a sense of humor.
“People would die to be mocked on Saturday Night Live,” she said. “That means you’ve arrived, that they’re going to take the time to write a skit about you, you’re that important. And yet he can’t laugh at that.”
Gold said she often feels like an outlier being “an ardent Zionist” as well as a Democrat.
“I am proud to be a Jew and I’m proud of Israel on so many levels,” she said. “What they contribute to the world at large – engineering wise, medical wise, they have a gay pride parade in Israel and they had a female prime minister.”
Gold performed in Israel in 2011 as part of the Comedy for Koby tour organized by the Koby Mandell Foundation.
“I want my sons to go on Birthright, both of them, and I want to come back and visit and I want to perform there [again],” she said.
Wherever she may be performing, Gold doesn’t shy away from her identity as gay, liberal and Jewish.
“I am a Jew, it’s everything about me – it’s how I look, it’s how I think, it’s what I eat,” she said. “I’m a Jew, it’s who I am.”
And Gold uses that identity to make jokes about things other comics would steer away from, including the Holocaust. For years, she said, she had a joke in her act about how her family would never last hiding in the attic where Anne Frank lived during World War II.
“We would have gotten caught because there’s no way my mother would have kept her mouth shut,” she said. “‘Judith, I asked you to wash that dish 10 minutes ago!’”
Gold said that while there are things she would never say on stage, “I mention the Holocaust almost every night when I go on stage... I mention it a lot because I don’t ever want people to forget it.”