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Old Jews Telling Jokes

The cast of OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The great thing about a show like Old Jews Telling Jokes is that the title tells you pretty much exactly what you’re getting. No basis for a consumer fraud lawsuit here, that’s for sure!

This delightful revue at the Westside Theatre features veterans Marilyn Sokol, Lenny Wolpe, and Todd Susman as the “old Jews,” along with younger actors Audrey Lynn Weston and Bill Army, who are presumably on hand to demonstrate that classic Jewish jokes are not only the province of alter kakers and that this is a grand tradition well worth passing on to younger generations.

Most of the jokes in the show are on usual-suspects subjects ranging from marriage to religion to doctor’s visits. (One of my favorites: An old man goes to a doctor, says he’s having trouble peeing. The doctor asks, “How old are you?” and the man says he’s 96. To which the doctor replies, “You’ve peed enough.”)

Chances are that you’ll have heard several of these zingers before, exactly as presented here. Others seem to have been rejiggered for more Jewish content, like the one about the woman who’s told that the only way to restore her husband’s health is for her to perform oral sex on him. And at least one of the funniest bits in the show, about two Irish guys at a bar mistake an old woman for Mother Theresa, seem to have no specifically Jewish content at all — except that, in this case, the foul-mouthed old bat is played by the divine Ms. Sokol.

Directed by Marc Bruni, the 80-minute show is peppered with a few songs; I really enjoyed hearing “Not a Well Man” from the flop Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale. And one of absolute highlights is the brilliantly deadpan Todd Susman’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River,” accurately set up here as a song that an old Jew should never sing.

But, really, this show is all about the kind of jokes that were the stock in trade of the Borscht Belt when that cultural phenomenon still existed. At the performance I attended, an audience packed with people of all ages, religions, colors, and sensibilities rocked with laughter at one screamingly funny bit after another. It’s comforting to know that this kind of humor still packs of wallop when delivered with such skill, talent, and affection.

So, my advice is to get yourself to the Westside Theatre as soon as you can. In the meantime, be aware that creators Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent based this show on the Internet series of the same title, which can be viewed at Visit that site if you need a laugh or two, or a hundred.