For many women, the possibility of someday turning into their mothers is terrifying; for self-described “loudmouth Jew lesbo” Judy Gold, it’s already come true. While the actress/comedian may not fully embrace the idea, she can’t help but laugh about it.
“Oh my god, yes, and it is awful! She has taken over me! I think it is inevitable, as much as I try not to,” she says.
Gold mimics her mother’s broad New York accent (“What do I want for my birthday? I just want the two of you to get along for a day”) before highlighting one big difference between them.
“She wasn’t particularly affectionate physically,” she reveals. “For me, there is a lot of ‘I love you’ and physical contact with my two sons that wasn’t there when I was growing up.”
That difference aside, Gold began to suspect that there really was something to the idea that Jewish moms beget Jewish moms and set out to test her hypothesis. The result is her one-woman show 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, which she will perform as part of this year’s Chutzpah Festival in Vancouver.
Based on interviews conducted with a variety of Jewish mothers across the United States — from Holocaust survivors to ultra-Orthodox women to converts — the idea for 25 Questions grew out of accusations in the Jewish press that Gold was portraying her mother as a stereotype in her standup routines. Having conducted the interviews, she maintains that many of the stereotypes hold true. She also points to a common thread that links the Jewish mothers she met.
“They all communicate with their children regularly,” says Gold, who admits to at least one telephone conversation with her mother every day, too. “There was this very, very deep connection with their kids.”
Woven among the interviews — which include questions such as “What makes Jewish moms better than other moms?” and “Are Jewish mothers really more paranoid?” — Gold shares stories of her own 91-year-old mother onstage. While she says her mom doesn’t object to being discussed in her act, she does have a problem with her daughter’s refusal to keep her sexuality to herself. After all, her mother says, Ellen doesn’t talk about it.
But Gold, who revealed she was gay after her first son was born, says she won’t keep quiet now.
“If I’m not who I am, I can’t live with myself. I need to be true to myself,” she says. “Every comic talks about their family onstage, and I knew that if I hid this from my children, it would send a message to them that we were somehow different.”
Being true to herself may have hurt her career at some point, she says, but it didn’t stop her from winning two Daytime Emmy Awards for her work as a producer and writer on The Rosie O’Donnell Show.
“I had such a great time,” she says. “It was really nice to be part of such a successful and positive show.” When what was supposed to be a 13-week writing gig became a two-year stay on the show, Gold found herself yearning to perform again. Now, she says, she has a particular affinity for her new show.
“There is a special bond between women as we see ourselves become our own mothers,” she says. “There’s a little Jewish mother in every mother.”