Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 29 June 2012 00:00
“A grasshopper walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender looks at him and says “You know we have a drink named after you.” The grasshopper replies, “You have a drink named Stanley?”
That is the kind of humor you will be subjected to in the new show on West 43rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. Old Jews Telling Jokes is the name of the hilarious production.
Five performers keep up the pace of a joke a second. Some are lewd, some ethnic, but the pace is madcap. The jokes are funny because Jews are often funny, and old Jews funnier still, but who could have imagined that you could make a Broadway show out of this concept.
I must admit I was a little disappointed with a small percentage of the jokes. In my 77 years I had heard a lot of the funny stuff, but I found myself laughing anyway. One kind of schtick was unusual: Todd Sussman just repeats the song “Old Man River” in a Yiddish accent. Simple, but funny. Marilyn Sokol, a famed actress in the ’60s and ’70s, had some really good lines.
Some of the classic lines are directed at Jewish mothers. A 6-year-old boy returns from school and his mother asks him, “Bubbeleh, did you learn anything at school today? What did you learn?” He answers, “I learned my name is Irving.”
The Lower East Side was a place that the Polish and Russian Jews settled. The food, the kosher wine and the pushcarts all contributed to Jewish humor.
The funniest thing happened as we were leaving the theater. The crowds had all emptied out and Lorraine and I saw this old Jewish man looking forlornly under his chair. He was looking everywhere. We asked him what he was searching for and he said “I lost my teeth, my dentures.” He laughed so hard that his teeth popped out of his mouth. It was sad and funny at the same time. An usher arrived with a flashlight and found them. As a former dentist, I too was delighted.
The humor is universal in this show, even though it has a Jewish edge to it. The jokes are non-stop and the audience roared with laughter. The show only lasts about an hour and a half, but you will go away with a few good, funny stories.