By Mary Ann Bourbeau
DEAL PARK – Although she lives in New York City now, Judy Gold still considers herself a Jersey girl.
And, while she doesn’t have anything good to say about growing up in the Union County township of Clark, she appreciates it for the humor it adds to her stand-up routine. “When I think of growing up in Clark, I think of that movie “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” she said, referring to the 1995 film about a shy, unattractive, unpopular middle-school girl in a suburban New Jersey town. “It mirrored my experience in so many ways.” She will surely talk about some of her Jersey experiences when she performs her stand-up act at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center.
Gold, who describes herself as a Jewish lesbian with a difficult mother, had reached 6-feet, 3-inches by the time she was in her teens, and was incessantly mocked for her height.
Being in the marching band didn’t help her popularity, she said, and living with the secret of her sexuality was difficult. “It’s awful to have to live in the closet, and to be picked on for being tall,” she said. “It was sort of torturous. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. But I’m a better person for it. I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
Who she is today is a mother of two with a successful career as a comedian and actress. Gold lives in New York City with her sons Henry, 17, and Ben, 13, and her partner, Elysa Halpern, with whom she was recently featured as the first same-sex couple on the ABC television show “Celebrity Wife Swap.”
In addition to her stand-up comedy, which can lean on the raunchy side, Gold has been seen in numerous movies, television shows, and theatrical productions, including “The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom,” which was staged in New York and Los Angeles. She also won two Emmy Awards as writer/producer of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.”
Her 91-year-old mother Ruth, who lives in a nursing home in Somerset, continues to inspire a lot of Gold’s humor. Gold describes her as overbearing and neurotic, which can easily make her the inspiration for a lot of jokes. Sometimes all it takes to get a few laughs is to play an answering machine message that her mother left for her. In 2006, Gold was doing a show called “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.” Gold said it earned positive reviews from many newspapers except The Star-Ledger, her local paper, which disappointed her. “It was like I went back to … high school,” she said.
It also infuriated Ruth. Since the reporter put his phone number at the end of the review, her mother decided to give him a call. “Why shouldn’t I call him?” her mother asked. “He has his opinion and I have mine. I’m entitled to talk to him about it.” It was like comedy gold to the comedian. “It’s so absurd, but it’s so her,” Gold said. “She doesn’t care that I use her in my routines. She thinks it’s hilarious.”
In fact, her latest Facebook post attests to her mother’s role in her act. “I just had a 48-hour ceasefire with my mother, and now I have no new material,” she wrote. Gold is not above using her children in her comedy either. Ben doesn’t seem to mind. “He is so me,” she said. “He definitely has the DNA of a performer.” Henry, on the other hand, hates it. “He’s so funny, I can’t help repeating his stuff,” she said. Henry recently graduated high school and at the ceremony, when his row was called to receive their diplomas, Gold received a text from him. “If you scream, I’ll kill you,” it said. “How could I not put that in my act?” she asked.
As a child, Gold played piano and clarinet, and later attended Rutgers University with thoughts of becoming a music teacher. Other students would spend hours upon hours in the practice rooms, but Gold felt teaching wasn’t necessarily in her DNA. One night in her dorm lounge during sophomore year, she was challenged to do a stand-up routine using everyone on the floor as material. “I got a high from that,” she said. “It was the most unbelievable feeling. It was truly the night my life changed.” Gold is looking forward to performing her show at the Axelrod for the New Jersey crowd. “I love doing stand-up in a theater,” she said. “You don’t have to deal with blenders and waitresses.
” The show begins at 8 p.m., with tickets $28 in advance and $32 at the door. Additional information is available by calling 732-858-8106 or visiting www.axelrodartscenter.com.
Vibe writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.