Judy Gold is not your typical Jewish mother. The comedienne and star of the one-woman show, The Judy Show—My Life As A Sitcom, Judy is at once funny and frank, sarcastic and, well, sassy. We laughed our way through our exclusive interview with Judy, as we spoke about her show, her boys Henry and Ben, and what it’s like being a lesbian mama in NYC.
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Hair/Makeup: Renee Strong
What’s going on right now?
I’m currently doing my show The Judy Show—My Life As A Sitcom. I’m also doing lots of standup, teaching and writing. It’s all ebbs and flows, and the hard part is when you’re on the ebb. And that’s what’s great about having a family; in fact, it’s the only good thing! When your whole life is your career and you don’t have a family, that’s sad. It’s never good to get all your self-esteem from one place. The balance is what’s key.
What is it about the family that rights you?
You have a purpose. It’s not all about you anymore. It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I can’t stand myself, so why do I want to focus on myself all the time? When you get that call that your son is sick, I don’t have to worry about me anymore. Because frankly, I’m annoying.
You haven’t annoyed me yet.
Okay, I’ll be ready for that. Now, let’s talk about your work with the show, TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest. Honestly, it’s one of the only shows that we watch together as a family.
The show is fun. Basically, I watch DVD’s of people doing dumb things, and then I write jokes about it. Could you ask for a better job than that? I’ve been on the show for about three years now, since it came out.
As a fellow writer, how do you prevent yourself from getting burned out?
I can only write when I’m on a deadline, and then I’m on. But it’s hard because my “office” is right next to the TV. I mean, I live in this NYC apartment, so naturally I have no space. Once I start writing, of course one of the kids will come in with three of his friends.
So what’s it like being a mom of two boys?
An-noying. Here’s an example of my kids; I’m on Facebook, and someone posted a picture of a sneaker. My son Henry is really into sneakers. I ask my son Henry how someone posted the photo of the sneaker and he says, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Mark Zuckerberg?!” That’s a typical exchange. And neither one of them wants to do homework in their bedrooms because there’s a desk!
They both sound like they got your sense of humor.
This is my rule; you can say anything, but if it’s funny, you get a pass.
What do they think of their mom being Judy Gold?
They tell me that I’m not funny. Ben does kind of like it. Henry is in high school, so it’s not cool. They don’t appreciate it. They ask, “Why can’t you be normal?” But if I get perks then they’re all into it. I think their friends think it’s cool, but Henry won’t give it up.
How is it raising kids in NYC?
It’s completely different from how I grew up. For one thing, there are computers, cells, texting…I grew up in the suburbs of NJ. I used to go out and play. And I also grew up in a house with a mom and dad, brother and sister, and it was normal. Well it wasn’t really normal because I’m a comedienne. But I love being a mom and just BEING in NYC. We know every one of our neighbors; the boys’ godparents live just down the hall.
You were saying earlier that you were bullied as a kid.
Incessantly. From the minute I got up and went to school, it just went on and on. I was screamed at in the hallways; grammar school was bad, but high school was worse. I remember being pushed and taunted all the time. The kids would yell at me, “Sasquatch” or “Bigfoot.” My mom told me to ignore them, and I did. But I would always think to myself, “Please God, let me walk home without being yelled at or teased.”
It’s horrible that you went through that, but it must have made you so much stronger.
I was humiliated on a daily basis, but there was something inside of me that thought, “I’m going to be something someday.” And today when I’m onstage and I get a heckler, I’m ruthless. Being bullied gave me such a thick skin that I can’t get thrown. I’ve taught my kids to never bully anyone and to always stick up for themselves.
How similar is your parenting style from the way your parents raised you?
We’re similar in terms of the overreacting, screaming and crying for no reason. But there’s more communication between me and my kids. We also spend more time together. While the way I grew up was more traditional, I’m more loosey-goosey. I have people in and out of the house all the time and my kids go to bed at different times. The boys will even come with me to events.
How does Judaism factor into your household?
Well, we definitely do Shabbat dinner every Friday night. There’s nothing predictable in this household. I thought, “At least one day a week, let’s have dinner, no TV.” Even though Henry whines, I think it’s good for them to know that they have some sort of predictability, and that they’ll have my full attention.
So what can people expect from The Judy Show—My Life As A Sitcom?
I’ve done two one-woman shows, but this one got rave reviews and a star in the New York Times. When I was growing up, I was addicted to sitcoms. So the show is my life story told through sitcoms. I felt that The Brady Bunch was a part of my family. When I met Eve Plumb, I said to her, “You will always be a major part of my life. I can be lying on a bed at 95 with dementia, and I’ll still know who you are.” I loved all of them, like The Partridge Family, Good Times, Laverne and Shirley. Mary Tyler Moore was the perfect show, and All In The Family, too. And I loved Maude; she was this tall, brash, sarcastic woman, and I’ve always identified with her.
I loved Maude, too, but in terms of 70’s sitcoms, I always thought I could be the 4th Brady sister.
I thought that the characters were real, too, and that they were a part of my family. When I went to L.A., I found the exterior of the Brady Bunch house, and I just sat there and stared at it. And not only were the characters great, but the shows’ topics were amazing for their time. You don’t have that now. The shows were so socially relevant. All In The Family would start discussions and broach topics you wouldn’t normally broach. When I became a comic in the late 80s/early 90s, all the comics were getting their own sitcoms. So The Judy Show talks about my life trying to pitch it as a sitcom.
That would be one cool sitcom.
They don’t have a gay family on TV today; they have gay characters, but no family show where there are two moms. My life really is a sitcom, but because I’m gay, they’re like, “Sorry.” It would be great for a gay kid to turn on the TV and see his own family. I would like my kids to see a family like theirs.
Between The Judy Show and your standup, which do you prefer?
I love standup and being on stage, but I hate everything else. I hate getting on the plane, hate the clubs. I’m old; I’m 49. I feel like, “You don’t like my joke; go fuck yourself.” But I love doing theater because the audience comes ready and you have their attention. To be able for 90 minutes to present this piece that I’ve worked on for years, and have it well-received, it’s an amazing experience.
Now let’s talk about your partner, Elysa.
Elysa is a therapist, which is a good comedienne/therapist combo. She uses terms like “triangulation” and “boundaries.” Sometimes, I tell her, “I just want to tell you something and you go ‘Oh.’” She can’t just say “Oh.” Basically, my kids have 4 Jewish mothers now. My ex has a girlfriend and then my girlfriend has an ex. Elysa and I have been together for five years, and it’s tricky sometimes navigating co-parenting.
There’s a misconception amongst some individuals that gay parents raise their children differently.
Yeah, like we teach them to be gay. We parent the exact way as everyone else. My kids have two parents who love them. None of gay parents’ kids were accidents. It’s not like we got drunk one night. These are wanted children, and they know that. But we have the same shit going on as everyone else. Look, Elysa is 50 and I’m 49. I have a tween and teen who are living with two women going through menopause. I mean, moody doesn’t describe it. This place is one big fuckin’ hormone. They’re so moody. I’m really moody.
You’re Judy Moody! [laughs] Come on, give it to me. That was good, right?[laughs] All right, all right, Jenn. That was pretty good!