When Judy Gold began her career in stand-up comedy, she struck, well, gold — literally — when she started imitating her mother.
Here’s a sampling. “After my new sunglasses that I bought in San Diego broke, my mother says: `Well, who buys sunglasses in San Diego? Nobody buys sunglasses in San Diego.’’’ Or, to the usher who helped the elder Mrs. Gold find her theater seat when the daughter Gold was in the The Vagina Monologues,“If you only knew the agony.’’
Yes, Rivka (or Ruth) Gold has been a source of great material for Judy Gold. But Judy would occasionally get into trouble with the press, especially the Jewish press, for doing impersonations of her whiny mother.
“The said I was promoting a stereotype,’’ Gold says on the phone from her home in New York City, where she lives with sons Ben, 11, and Henry, 6.
“So I went out with Kate Moira Ryan, and we interviewed Jewish mothers. We talked to everyone — Holocaust survivors, children of survivors, reform, conservative, straight, gay — everyone. And these women changed my life.’’
They also provided fodder for Gold’s first play: the solo show 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, which Gold has been performing around the country for the last few years. She brings her “Mother’’ project to San Francisco’s Marines Memorial Theatre on Tuesday, March 11.
“Initially, this was a labor of love, to find out what made Jewish mothers Jewish mothers,’’ Gold says. “Then I wanted to find out where I fit in. I’m a single Jewish lesbian with two kids from anonymous sperm donors. I have done nothing in my life in a conventional manner. Nothing. Zero. I’m a comedian. I don’t do anything normally.’’
And yet Gold keeps a Kosher home and says being Jewish is “a big part of who I am.’’
The quest to find out where she fit in, in addition to creating a show (and a book of the same title), helped Gold feel more grounded.
“I’m proud to be part of this group,’’ she says. “These women I talked to, I’m honored, with very few exceptions, to be party of their group. There were a couple of crazies.’’
Part of the process involved Gold interviewing her own mother.
“For the first time I saw her as a human being — someone who had hopes and dreams not realized and disappointments,’’ Gold recalls. “We should all interview our parents like that. We write about how to do that in the book. You don’t want to have a person be gone and regret never having asked them for something.’’
Though Gold plays many Jewish mothers in her play, she does spend a lot of time talking about her own mother. So what did Mrs. Gold think about the play she inspired?
“I’ve never seen my mother cry over anything of substance — just about when she loses her keys and stuff like that — and she could barely talk. She was so moved. It was pretty amazing.
25 Questions for a Jewish Mother continues through March 23 at the Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., San Francisco. Tickets are $39-$49. Call 415-771-6900 or visit www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com for information.
Here’s a clip of Judy Gold talking about — what else? — her mother.