"My family didn’t talk about our feelings; everything was just really sarcastic. Like example, my father died in 1990. My sister will call me and instead of saying, ‘I miss daddy’ [she’ll say] ‘Have you heard from daddy lately? I haven’t heard from him. I mean, he didn’t even call me on my birthday. What do you think’s going on?’ Stuff like that. That’s how we talk to each other."
– Judy Gold
Judy Gold: Hello?
Guy MacPherson: Hello.
GM: Hello, can you hear me?
JG: Apparently you’re mentally disturbed but that’s okay.
GM: Oh, man.
JG: I’m kidding.
GM: Have you played Vancouver before?
JG: Never. I’ve never beeeeen there, as you people say.
GM: What do you say, ‘bin’?
JG: ‘Bin’, yeah.
GM: Well, we say both.
JG: Yeah, whatever.
GM: So never been here in all your years in show business? You know, it’s Hollywood North?
JG: Yeah, I hear ya. Don’t you film everything there?
GM: Yes, exactly. So you’ve never had a chance to do any of that.
JG: I haven’t been there at all, no. But I heard it’s beautiful.
GM: And you’ve been doing stand-up since ’91, is that correct?
JG: Uh-uh. I started doing stand-up in college. So I would say I’ve been doing stand-up… I guess regularly as a professional it’s been about 26 years, 27 years. I was 23. But I actually did stand-up for the first time when I was about 19.
GM: So you’re telling me there’s misinformation on the internet? I’ve never heard such a thing.
JG: Oh, isn’t that shocking?
GM: Because I was wondering what you did before that.
JG: I didn’t. I graduated college and I became a stand-up.
GM: So it was always in your dreams to get into showbiz.
JG: Well, no. I always wanted to be a performer; I didn’t know in what capacity. But when I was in college, someone actually dared me to do it and that’s how I started doing stand-up.
GM: They dared you because you must have been the funny one, right?
JG: I was funny, yes. It was a Secret Santa, actually, and we used to do these things where you’d get a dare kind of assignment and then you’d get a present. I woke up one morning and it was to do stand-up on my floor that I lived on in my dorm and use everyone who lived there as material. I wrote material about everyone who lived on the floor.
GM: And since then it’s morphed into doing material on your family.
JG: Right. Well, I mean, that was, oh my God, 1982. So like 30 years ago. You know, I did do stand-up in college and then I kinda stopped for a while because I wanted to get my degree. And I was so young. I’d go to these clubs and I couldn’t even drink. And then I got a job, like a menial office job after college. I was like, No. Never. I cannot sit in an office. And I started doing stand-up.
GM: An office cannot contain Judy Gold.
GM: I saw the clip on your website of you interviewing people in New York. What was that for?
JG: I had a show on HBO for 10 years called At the Multiplex with Judy Gold and it was an interstitial program that would go on in between the movies. It was me at the movie theatre interviewing people as they’re coming out. And they cancelled all of that programming I think two years ago and everyone stops me still. So a friend of mine just said, ‘You know what? Why don’t we just go to Time Square every other week and just interview people?’
GM: And just put it up on line?
JG: Yeah. It’s something I love to do. I love doing that kind of man-on-the-street remote kind of stuff.
GM: And judging from that one, you’re really good at it. You’ve had all that experience talking to idiots. And now it continues today with me.
GM: How many are there?
JG: There’s two now. We did a Lance Armstrong one last week. And I’m not kidding: 90 percent of the people had no idea who Lance Armstrong is.
JG: You have no idea how stupid Americans are. You have no idea.
GM: I wonder if they were just caught off guard.
JG: Come on! Lance Armstrong? I mean, it’s the easiest question. Half the people just walk by us but a lot of people want to talk and I say, ‘What do you think of Lance Armstrong?’ ‘Uh, who?’ Really?!
GM: It’s kind of like Jay Walking.
GM: You think he must go through tons before he gets an idiot.
JG: Oh, no. I think he sets that whole thing up so they’ll be idiots. I actually want to converse with someone really smart and have some kind of back-and-forth. But it’s just so funny when you really talk to people. They’re just not smart.
GM: I guess your camera person won’t be with you in Vancouver but it would be interesting to see if random Canadians on the street were any brighter.
JG: Yeah, that’s true. The other thing is I know they have health insurance. Lucky them.
GM: Yes, we do. And we use it. Let’s clear up some other possible mistruths from the internet.
JG: Okay, go ahead.
GM: You are 6-foot-3.
JG: I think I’m like 6-2. I mean, I was but I just had a total knee replacement. But it’ll go back up once I finish physical therapy.
GM: Was it one knee or two?
JG: One knee. The other one needs to get done, too. It’s so awful. The one knee was so much work I can’t even imagine the two knee.
GM: Is this because you’re athletic?
JG: I was a runner and I am very athletic but it’s genetic, I’m sure. I have arthritis. It’s so sad because my younger son, Ben, who’s a major basketball player – he’s 11 – he now has developed knee problems and we’re going to physical therapy together. Isn’t that a nice mother-son bonding thing? He’s 5-7-and-a-half and has a 12 men’s shoe.
GM: Ka-ching! NBA.
JG: True, I hope.
GM: You’re active in the LGBT and the Jewish communities. But you also still play regular comedy clubs, right?
JG: Yes, of course. I’ve done a lot of theatres because I’ve had two one-person shows that have toured: 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother – that ran about a year-and-a-half off-Broadway and then we toured for three years – and then I had another show that ran 2011 to ’12 here in Manhattan off-Broadway. That’s going to the Geffen Theater this summer. I’m actually doing it in Florida this weekend. It’s called The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom. They’re both one-person shows, solo shows not stand-up. But very funny.
GM: From the one-person shows I’ve seen, the rhythm and beats are almost the same as stand-up; there’s just more of a through-line. Is that it?
JG: No. That’s for some people. I write them with a playwright and they’re really actually plays. The first one was about interviews we did with 50 Jewish mothers around the country. It was awesome. It became a book and it’s great. And then this one is about my addiction. I was addicted to sitcoms growing up and thought I would always have my own sitcom. It shows the direct trajectory of my career and the different times in my life I’ve pitched sitcoms and how I still don’t have one, thank you. Good night.
GM: Which sitcoms were your favourites?
JG: Oh God. Well, Brady Bunch, of course. Partridge Family, All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, Mary Tyler Moore, the best, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time. I mean, all these shows are like part of my family growing up. Florence Henderson came to the show and we became friends. And she’s just amazing. I talk to her pretty often. She’s a big fan and she’s the greatest. Florence fucking… Mrs. Brady is my friend!
GM: Who was your favourite Brady kid?
JG: Even though I’m gay, I did have a crush on Greg. I don’t know why I thought he was really cool. Everyone loved Peter but I don’t know, I liked Greg because he was so cool.
GM: My favourite was Jan.
JG: Oh, that figures. I’ve met her, too. She’s the greatest.
GM: Eve Plumb.
JG: Eve Plumb. She’s really nice. She lives in my neighbourhood.
GM: I would imagine it’s a double-edged sword being active in these communities, and also the Democratic party. On the one hand, you get these people that think like you and like you and agree with you, but on the other hand others might stay away.
JG: No, I think funny is funny. But look, if you’re anti-gay I don’t think you’re going to see my show. But I’m sure Republicans come to my show. And there are a lot of Jewish Republicans who don’t agree with my politics, but funny is funny. And I talk about my mother and my kids and being middle aged and divorce. It’s beyond what party you’re affiliated with. But if you believe that a gay person’s relationship or family is not equal to yours because you’re heterosexual then by all means avoid my shows at all cost. And don’t talk to me.
GM: You family does sound like an awesome sitcom. I imagine you’ve tried pitching it.
JG: I pitched it, yes. And there’s always some kind of, ‘Uh, you know…’ And it really does boil down to, I believe, that if I was a straight, white male – maybe black, too – it would be a no-brainer. It is a no-brainer! What’s going on in this country? Telling women they can’t use contraception? I mean, this country is so unbelievable. It’s becoming like a right-wing religious… But the people spoke and we have Obama as president. But it’s just so funny: you go into show business and all you hear is the word ‘no.’ No, no, no, no, no. … Honey, you have to put on shorts. [son’s voice: “Why?”] We’re going to physical therapy. [“What?!] We have physical therapy at 4. [“I didn’t know it was physical therapy!”] Yes! Let’s go. [“How long is it?”] Half hour. Please, I’m on a business call. You gotta bring shorts. Let’s go. … Hi, sorry.
GM: That’s awesome.
GM: Just that.
JG: [to son] Are you gonna get up? Okay, great. [sotto vocce] I can’t stand this anymore.
GM: (laughs) You’ll be on the road soon. It’ll be okay.
JG: I know.
GM: You’re strongly liberal and Obama, I guess, is kind of liberal…
JG: I think he’s pretty liberal.
GM: Yeah, but compared to Canada, he’s not that liberal.
GM: Is it easier as a comedian having Bush in and somebody you can really fight against?
JG: I know, people always say that – it’s so much better when you have like an asshole idiot Republican – but my whole show isn’t politics so for me I don’t think it really makes a difference. Of course there’s a lot to make fun of when you have someone who’s not that smart, but my act isn’t really about politics. I mean, I talk about it in sort of a peripheral way when I talk about my family.
GM: You produced on Rosie’s show?
GM: How did you get into producing?
JG: I’ve known her forever. When she got the show my son Henry had just been born and I was visiting her baby, Parker… I’m on the phone! You can’t pick up the phone and start calling! I’m on that phone… Because I’m on the phone! [“Can I use your phone then?”] Yes. Can I have a minute where I actually have a business call?! [“I need to call mama”] [Heavy sigh] Oh, God. [quietly] I need an office. Ben, you gotta go in the other room because I’m talking to someone in Canada. [sotto vocce] Like that’s gonna have a fucking impact…. Anyway, so she had asked me, you know, why don’t you submit a writing sample. So I started as a writer and I was writing and I read the paper a lot and I know her and I’d read about all these weirdos and I’d pitch her. And she was like, ‘Why don’t you start the human interest department?’ So that’s what I ended up doing. I was the one in charge of putting real people on the show. It was really fun. And I won two Emmys, along with all the other producers. It was such a great experience. And I really understand now that whole genre of television, daytime TV, which seems to be the female genre because you never see women in late night. You only see them during the day.
GM: That’s true. Ellen could totally be on late night.
GM: You talk about your mother a lot. Is she still around?
JG: She’s 90 years old. She is still around. And she’s still funny. Yesterday we had a very lovely conversation where I said to her I’m doing a gig in New Jersey and I’m gonna see your cousin Helen tonight. And she said, ‘You’re seeing a friend of Ellen’s?’ I said, ‘No, I’m seeing your cousin Helen.’ ‘What, Ellen?’ [yelling] I said, ‘No Ma, I’m seeing your cousin Helen!’ And she goes, ‘I don’t have to put up with this.’ And she hung up on me.
GM: Is she, or was she ever, intentionally funny?
JG: You know, I think now as an adult, yes, of course. The thing of my family is we never talk about any kind of… And it’s the same thing in my family with my kids. Funny trumps anything. Like, they can say anything mean to me and horrible but if it’s funny they don’t get in trouble. And with my family we were just always really sarcastic. And one-upping someone with a joke… We didn’t talk about our feelings; everything was just really sarcastic. Like example, my father died in 1990. My sister will call me and instead of saying, ‘I miss daddy’ [she’ll say] ‘Have you heard from daddy lately? I haven’t heard from him. I mean, he didn’t even call me on my birthday. What do you think’s going on?’ Stuff like that. That’s how we talk to each other.
GM: (laughs) What did your mom – or your sister, for that matter – think about being a subject in your act?
JG: My sister and brother I never talk about. They’re so boring. And my older son does not want me to mention him at all. But too fucking bad.
GM: But your mom was fine with it?
JG: Oh, she loved it. I think half the stuff that comes out of her mouth is because she wants me to do it on stage.
GM: (laughs) So it’s a big put-on now?
JG: Yeah. [as her mom] ‘You think I didn’t know that was funny, Judith?’
GM: Do you find yourself turning into her?
JG: Oh, my God, please.
JG: Yeah. (laughs) I mean sometimes when I say things like, ‘All I want is can you give me 5 minutes to myself?! Five minutes!’
GM: Another thing I learned from researching you is there’s something called Wikifeet and you have an entry on there.
JG: What is it?
JG: What is that?
GM: I go to type in ‘Judy Gold’ into Google and it lists things like ‘Judy Gold standup’, ‘Judy Gold whatever’. I scroll down and I see ‘Judy Gold feet’. Your feet!
JG: No, really?
GM: So I go to it and it’s like Wikipedia for celebrity’s feet and there are a bunch of pictures of you in sandals or anything that shows your feet.
JG: It is?! Wow, that’s pathetic.
GM: Who does this?
JG: Someone with a foot fetish, apparently. Oh my God, that’s hilarious.
GM: Was your family religious?
JG: Yes. I grew up conservative but my mother was very observant. Kosher. And I do have shabbat dinner every Friday night when I’m here. Of course, I’m not a religion zealot. Look, my kids have two moms, we’re divorced, I’m a comic. To have one predictable night of the week where we can all sit, it’s something I did with my parents, and generations and generations of people… It’s nice to have that one thing. I like the structure of the holidays and the tradition. Do I believe every word? No. But as far as religions go, it’s not a bad one.
GM: You’re playing the Jewish Community Centre here.
JG: [over the top] Oh, that’s right! Shalom! But it’s funny, you don’t have to be Jewish.
GM: Exactly. I’ve been to shows there and they’re great. But I wonder if the general public knows that.
JG: It’s a theatre; it doesn’t matter. I’ve performed in churches. It’s a theatre.
GM: The show you’re doing, is it the three of you doing your own stand-up?
JG: Yeah, we’re doing stand-up but it’s more than stand-up because we have a, you know… Wait, what did they say? They told me what to say when you asked that question.
JG: I’ll look that up. (laughs) But it is a little more than stand-up.
GM: But I love stand-up.
JG: Oh, me too. The theme of the show really is that we don’t care anymore. And it’s true. You know, you get to a certain age and you don’t give a shit. You don’t think I’m funny? Bye. You know. I have kids. Once you have kids, just everything changes.
GM: But you never cared, did you?
JG: I did. I think in the beginning, in my 20s, until I realized, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ That’s a really good attitude to walk around with: Who… the fuck… are you? [yells to son] Where’s my phone?! Can I have it? [to me] I’m gonna read the note she sent.
GM: You don’t need to give me the official version. You’re gonna do your thing, right?
JG: Oh, please, of course.
GM: Cory Kahaney’s hilarious.
JG: She’s great… Yeah, but you gotta put on shorts, Ben. That doesn’t mean throw your pants on the floor in the living room…. Okay, let me see. I’m sorry. Let’s see I’m looking for this thing… Cory, yes. Okay, let’s look her up. I hate this iPhone. I hate them all.
GM: Was this Cory’s project?
JG: Yeah… Let’s see… Here we go… [to son] You’re opening those? Then I want one. [“What? What?”] I want one… Okay, here we go: “So, if they ask you about the show can you say that, yes, you’ll see our stand-up, but also get a rare glimpse of our life outside. The common thread for all three of us is we don’t give a shit anymore. We’re done with self-improvement and we accept this is as good as we’re gonna get.” [to son] I wanna chocolate one…. Is that a good answer for you? (laughs)
GM: That’s fantastic. It’s probably all I’ll use.
GM: I don’t think stand-up needs more than that but maybe some people do.
JG: I know but there’s cool videos we did. I hate mine so I’m thinking of changing it.
GM: Well I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think Cory’s been here before, either. Or Dana.
JG: Cory’s been there because she told me how beautiful it is there. I don’t know if she performed there.
GM: Okay, Judy. Thanks so much.
JG: Okay, come to the show.
JG: Alright, take it easy.
GM: Thanks. Bye.
JG: Okay, bye. [to son] Let’s go!