“Here’s a story, of a lovely lady…” goes the famous sitcom theme song, which kicked off pre-teen Judy Gold’s favorite half-hour of television in the late 1960s. The Brady Bunch starred a famously blended family that the lesbian comedian longed to join—what’s one more kid in a family of six?—in hopes of escaping her own life as an extra-tall, very Jewish, marching band enthusiast in Clark, New Jersey.
The Judy Show is a story of the lovely lady who never met the man named Brady. Instead, she went from awkward kid to “six-foot-three Jewish lesbian mom of two boys,” with a 900-square-foot apartment, a single bathroom and an obsession with sitcoms from the 1960s and 1970s. Gold’s new one-woman production, currently enjoying limited engagement at the DR2 Theater, is both an homage to the sitcoms of yesteryear and a plea for a sitcom of her own, starring her own wacky family.
“Everything you needed to know about the show was said in the first few lines of the theme song,” Gold says of classic sitcoms. “You met the characters, knew the story, understood the theme of the show.” She starts off her own act with a brassy version of her self-penned song and segues into her lifelong quest for primetime stardom. Escaping her prototypical Jewish mother (who fit no sitcom role that she could find), workaholic dad and chronically doleful siblings, young Judy absorbed the social messages in All in the Family, Good Times, Maude, Rhoda, The Partridge Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and even Gilligan’s Island. “On surface, Gilligan’s Island seems kind of silly, but the creator wanted to show how different elements of society, characterized by Gilligan, Ginger and the rest, could work together,” Gold tells GO. “That’s the beautiful thing about sitcoms in the 70s; they all tackled social issues with humor, so no one got mad at each another.”
Her admiration for Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz, whom Gold credits for the theme song formula and his comic vision, is evident from the first moments of The Judy Show; when he passed away at age 94earlier this month, Gold’s friends left her voicemail messages and sent e-mails to Gold with their condolences.
Gold’s other inspiration is as recognizable to her audiences as Heathcliff Huxtable’s sweater collection was to Cosby Show fans: her prototypical Jewish mother, whom Gold voices with a gravelly plaintiveness and mimed backache. Gold describes her unconscious habit of molding her evolving family—which comes to include ex-partner “Schwendy” (not her real name), two young sons and her current partner Elysa—into the ‘70s sitcom template while trying to pitch a TV pilot in Burbank.
Three TV networks passed on Gold’s idea for a sitcom based on her scrappy brood—though, she remarks in the show, they’d consider an animated version. “Cartoons are really the way social issues get explored now, rather than live shows. I mean, look at Family Guy and South Park. They push buttons that sitcoms today are afraid to,” Gold says.
Maybe New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage will nudge the networks in Gold’s direction. What’s more conventional than marriage, after all? It forms the backbone of countless shows, from I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners to Married…with Children. “It will definitely help,” she says. “New York’s legalization of gay marriage happened when the show was starting, and I changed the ending of the show to reflect it.” Perhaps by this time next year, we’ll be watching “The Judy Show” on TV. Stay tuned.
The Judy Show is playing at the DR2 Theater, 103 East 15th Street (at 20 Union Square East) through September 10. For tickets, visit Telecharge at http://www.telecharge.com/BehindTheCurtain.aspx?prodid=8554