Theater archives

Old Jews Telling Jokes: Funny? I’ll Tell You


The Pulitzer winning Clybourne Park has a handful of offensive but funny jokes sprinkled into its tart stew of a plot to emphasize the strained racial relationships of its lead players.

But Old Jews Telling Jokes–based on the original Internet series created by Sam Hoffman–just has jokes.

No context. No explanation. No point. Just jokes. One after another.

And it’s hilarious.

Unlike Clybourne Park, this show is about an ethnic group making fun of itself rather than the other, and doing so with a cheery but droll willingness to please.

As it goes on, serving proverbial rim shot after rim shot, it feels undernourished as theater, but then the next crack will have you giggling all over again and forgetting any theatrical thinness.

The title, first of all, is a joke unto itself. The cast actually includes two young people (Bill Army and Audrey Lynn Weston) in addition to the old-timers (Marilyn Sokol, Lenny Wolpe, and Todd Susman).

All are expert, milking the maximum laughs out of gags involving kvetching, cheapness, marital discord, guilt, and yearning.

After one of those “Let us entertain you” kind of songs, the cast dives into jokes broken down by category (“Childhood,” “Dating and Courtship,” etc).

Sometimes they’ll just face the audience and tell a setup-punchline kind of joke. Other times the joke will be more of a story that takes several performers to act out. (Like the guy stranded on a desert island who wants to have sex with a lamb and…Well, let me not ruin the ending. I’d feel guilty.) And other times they’ll perform monologues in which they play a character describing his or her relationship to dark humor.

A sample joke that pops up?

Doctor: “You have cancer and Alzheimer’s.” Patient: “Well, at least I don’t have cancer.”

Another one: A man on his deathbed is asked by his son, “Are you comfortable?” The man replies, “I make a living.”

Hey, didn’t Walter Matthau once say that in real life to Jack Lemmon when Matthau was reclining after an injury? Yes, but he probably stole it because these jokes are really old!

And usually very funny.

Does Old Jews add up to a Pulitzer winning drama?

No way. But it’s a painless diversion, even for young goyim.