Judy Gold always wanted to live in a sitcom. Growing up a too-tall, nerdy budding lesbian in New Jersey, she wanted her home life to be like The Brady Bunch, high school to be like Room 222, college to be like The Facts of Life, and her eventual independent adult life to be like The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Eventually, though, Gold forged a life sitcom-worthy in itself — this self-described 6-foot-3 observant Jewish lesbian mom is a successful actor and stand-up comedian, living with her partner and two sons in the same New York City building as her former partner, and dealing with a colorful, lovable, but sometimes irritating mother.
And don’t think she hasn’t pitched this as a series idea, but so far Hollywood has failed to bite — which is too bad, judging from Gold’s newest stage show, The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom, currently having its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles after a well-received New York run in 2011.
In the one-woman show, written by Gold with Kate Moira Ryan and directed by Amanda Charlton, Gold hilariously recounts the travails and triumphs of her life, relating them to sitcoms in a way that will resonate with Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and anyone who’s watched a lot of TV Land. Gold also performs snippets of the theme songs while accompanying herself on piano, and images from the shows are projected onstage.
Noting her love for The Brady Bunch, she says it makes sense: “The father was a closet homo and the maid was a dyke.” And sitcom families, she points out, were good at communicating — unlike her family, who had two modes of communication, “screaming and not talking to each other.”
Gold also goes into the trauma of sleepaway camp, where there were open showers and because of her height, “My vagina was in everyone’s face — that works well now,” and the counselors were nothing like Reuben Kincaid, the band manager and delightful bad influence on The Partridge Family. And then came high school, where she attempted to be popular — by joining the marching band.
But in college she discovered stand-up and found her calling, with a show she performed for her Rutgers University dorm mates being her “eureka moment.” The road it sent her down wasn’t an easy one; there was the mind-numbing day job while she was trying to break in at open-mike nights in New York, and then there were the countless one-night gigs all over the country, a lonely pursuit until she decided to bring her widowed mother along. Along the way, however, she found love, became a mother of two, and made it after all.
She still doesn’t have that sitcom, though. She recalls frustrating meetings with producers, whose reactions range from cluelessness about two women coparenting to imagining an East Coast L Word with lots of hot lesbian sex.
Gold has managed to have a busy career nonetheless, with her stand-up act, which has been featured in several TV specials, and acting jobs on series such as The Big C, 30 Rock, and Sex and the City, on which she played a Barnes and Noble clerk; when Sarah Jessica Parker arrived on the set, she initially thought her showbiz acquaintance Gold was down on her luck and had taken a job at the bookstore. And she preceded The Judy Show with another long-running stage production, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.
By the way, Gold really does love her parents and siblings — The Judy Show has some touching anecdotes about her mother and her late father — but that doesn’t mean she can’t find comedy gold in them. And her partners, current and former, and her sons.
And the sitcom she envisions would deal with not only family antics but some important issues, such as marriage equality. She posits, for instance, that she could talk about Edie Windsor, the lesbian widow who sued to bring down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. Gold’s opening night performance in L.A. last Wednesday came just hours after the Supreme Court decided in Windsor’s favor, leading the comic to give a shout-out to Windsor and her victory.
So, we’d love to see her have a TV series, but in the meantime, we’re lucky to have The Judy Show live onstage. If you’re in Los Angeles in the next few weeks, by all means tune in.
The Judy Show runs through July 28 at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse. For information and tickets, click here.