For many women the possibility that they will one day become their mother is terrifying. For self-described “loud mouth Jew lesbo” Judy Gold, it has become a reality. And while she may not fully embrace the idea, she has at least come to accept and 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,” laughs Gold at the question of whether she has become her mother. But even as Gold finds herself imitating her mother with a broad New York accent (“What do I want for my birthday? I just want the two of you to get along for a day”), she highlights one big difference between them.
“She wasn’t particularly affectionate physically,” reveals Gold. “For me there are a lot of ‘I love you’ and physical contact with my two sons that wasn’t there when I was growing up.”
Despite that difference, Gold began to suspect that there really was something to the idea of Jewish moms begetting Jewish moms and set out to find out just how true it was. 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 Jewish mothers across the United States, the idea for 25 Questions also grew out of accusations in the Jewish press that Gold was portraying her mother as a stereotype in her stand-up. After conducting the interviews, Gold realized that while many of those stereotypes held true, there was a common thread that linked them all.
“They all communicate with their children regularly,” says Gold who claims at least one telephone conversation with her mother every day. “There was this very, very deep connection with their kids.”
Using answers to questions such as “what makes Jewish moms better than other Moms” and “are Jewish mothers really more paranoid”, Gold is definitely going for the laughs, but she also calls it “brutally honest and insightful” with interviews from a diverse group of Jewish mothers that included the ultra-Orthodox to Holocaust survivors and converts.
Weaved among the interviews, Gold spends time talking about her own mother and while she maintains her 91-year old mom has never been annoyed by what she says about her on stage, what she does have a problem with is her daughter’s refusal to keep her sexuality to herself. After all, her mother says, Ellen doesn’t talk about it.
“I’m not going to be silent because that is what people want. If I’m not who I am, I can’t live with myself. I need to be true to myself,” says Gold who first openly revealed she was gay after her first son was born. “Every comic talks about their family on stage and I knew that if I hid this from my children, it would send a message to them that we were somehow different.”
And even as she admits that being true to herself has probably hurt her career at some point, it hasn’t stopped her from making a living that included a two year stint as a writer and producer on the Rosie O’Donnell Show.
“I had such a great time,” says Gold who won two Daytime Emmy Awards for her work as a human interest producer and writer on the show. “It was really nice to be part of such a successful and positive show.”
Staying on at the Rosie Show for two years beyond what was originally to be a thirteen week writing gig, Gold found herself yearning to get back to perform. And while that has meant numerous television appearances, including her current appearance on the Food Network’s Rachael vs Guy Celebrity Cook-off, she confesses a special affinity for 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother which has also been turned into a book.
“There is a special bond between women as we see ourselves become our own mothers,” she says. Besides, she insists, “there’s a little Jewish mother in every mother”.
(A version of this article first appeared in the February 13, 2014 edition of Xtra!)