Top Image: Photo: Justine Ungaro
Studies show that laughing is truly beneficial to physical and emotional health helping to strengthen your immune system, reduce pain, and relieve stress, proving that laughter really is the best medicine. And after this past year and half of the pandemic and political tumult we could all use a good laugh. Stand up comic Judy Gold has been a Provincetown favorite since she began performing here in the early 1990s. A two-time Emmy Award winner and host of the popular podcast Kill Me Now, is elated to be back on stage at the Art House making people laugh after a year plus with lights dimmed in theaters and comedy clubs the world over. Gold took sometime time to talk with Provincetown Magazine about life in lockdown for a comic, how she deals with hecklers, and though she thinks cancel culture is bullshit, the one person in the world she wouldn’t mind seeing getting socially banished.
Provincetown Magazine: How does it feel to be back in front of a live audience?
Judy Gold: There are no words. Seriously. Stand-up comedy is such an intimate art form. It’s a give and take, and when the comedian gives and the audience takes, it is beyond exhilarating. It might sound crazy that my job is to stand onstage in front of strangers and make them laugh, but hearing that laughter is why we do it. There is nothing like it.
PM: What was your lockdown experience like?
JG: I have very mixed feelings about the lockdown because I learned so much about myself during that time. For my entire adult life, I have gone out to work after dinner. I rarely, if ever, did what most people do: eat with the family, clean up, move to the living room, watch some TV, and go to bed. I stopped. And I smelled the roses. I loved spending time with Elysa and our children, quality time I never would have gotten with them otherwise. I cooked, a lot. I binge watched shows, something I had never done before. I found new ways to exercise. I realized how much time I wasted before the pandemic. It also leveled the playing field. Everyone was in the same boat. It was nice not seeing other people’s “perfect lives” on social media. But I did get a burst of energy every night around 9 p.m., which annoyed the hell out of my family.
PM: When we last spoke your book Yes, I Can Say That had just come out, a stand up comics perspective on free speech and comedy. How has the reception been? Any attempts to have you cancelled?
JG: Thank you for asking! The book is still doing well. I got incredibly great feedback on it, and people just love the audiobook, which was featured in the New York Times Book Review. In this climate, there will always be attempts to cancel people, especially comics. It is ridiculous. Our only goal is to make people laugh. That’s it. If you don’t like a joke, too fucking bad. Move on. It’s not about you, you, you. Don’t get me started or this Q&A will take up the entire magazine!!
PM: If you could cancel one person, who would it be, if anyone?
JG: Mitch McConnell and his neck pouch.
PM: You appeared in the FX documentary Hysterical that came out in April, which explores women in stand-up comedy. What’s changed for women in stand up and what’s stayed the same?
JG: Great question. There are definitely more female stand-up comedians than ever before. And the vast majority of them are confident, sexy and not afraid to speak truth to power. When I started in the early 1980’s there would never be more than one woman on a show, if that. I would call clubs to try and get booked and they would say that they had a woman there a few months ago and she didn’t do well, so they’re not booking any female comics. And when a male comic bombed, did they close the fucking place down? No. Women comedians still get paid less. We are still judged by a different standard. I’m definitely feeling the ageism that comes with being a woman over 50. Men over 60 still get comedy specials. Finally, when there are three male comics on a show, it’s a comedy show. When there are three women comics on a show it’s a special event. Ladies Night Out! Herstrical! Funny Females! That has to stop.
PM: Have you seen Hacks? Everyone is freaking out in particular about Jean Smart’s performance as a comedy legend trying to find her edge again. What did you think of the series?
JG: I just started watching it and it’s awesome!! Jean Smart is a genius and Hannah Einbinder is just perfect. Representation is everything.
PM: How important is current day Provincetown to the stand-up comedy circuit?
JG: Provincetown is my favorite place in the entire world. I’ve been coming here since 1985, started performing here in 1992, and have owned a home here since 1994. I recorded my first album at The Post Office Cabaret. This town nurtures creativity and open-mindedness. The audiences are just incredible, especially the locals. People here know what is funny, and it’s not cheap laughs at other people’s expense. Also, we are seeing more and more tourists here since people are not afraid to come out of the closet and pretty much everyone has an LGBTQ+ member of their family or friend group. I do miss the old days when I would hand out flyers at Herring Cove and every single person was LGBT, but times change. Marginalized people have the best senses of humor. I feel so lucky to be able to perform here all summer long, and work with Mark Cortale who continues to bring some of this country’s most celebrated performers to Provincetown. Also, the staff at The Art House is stellar.
PM: Lastly, hecklers, they seem to be a nagging part of the life of a comic. What’s the craziest heckling experience you’ve ever had?
JG: Craziest? OMG! I’ve been doing this for almost four decades! I used to engage with the hecklers and rip them to shreds, and now that I’m old and wise, I’m so over it. I remember once I was performing in Marietta, Georgia in the late 80’s early 90’s, and someone yelled out, “The Jews have all the money!” And I was like, “Do you seriously think I’d be in the middle of Georgia, staying in a shitty hotel, standing in front of an audience full of straight, white people who’ve never seen a Jew if I had all the money?” Puhlease.
Judy Gold performs at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., every Friday and Saturday in July at 9 p.m. and every Tuesday and Wednesday in August at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($30/$40) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.