Judy Gold has a voice that can only be described as ‘refreshing’. In fact, her voice has been ‘refreshing’ for nearly thirty years. She’s always edgy and yet poignantly on topic. Her voice is both loud and impulsive – and that’s perfectly fine when that voice is also informed, kind, intelligent and remarkably insightful. She’s been a true champion for the LGBT Community and has been an ‘out’ gay writer, comedian, and humanitarian since she arrived on the comedy circuit some 30 years ago. “I was never really ‘in the closet’,” Judy says, “but I just never talked about it.’ Later in life, when her son was born, she made a conscious decision to tell the truth about her family in her act and to honor her journey as a gay, Jewish woman. She never looked back.
She first did stand-up on a dare while a music student at Rutgers University. She also shared a relationship with her former partner, Sharon/Wendy, for almost 20 years. She has two children (Henry, 1996, and Ben, 2001), facts she frequently referenced in her comments on the show Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. Gold is very active in both the LGBT and Jewish communities. She won two Daytime Emmy Awards for her work as a writer and producer on The Rosie O’Donnell Show and was an active supporter of the 2004 and 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns.
Judy Gold is also funny as fuck.
I ambushed her on the 4th of July while she was relaxing with her future wife, Elysa Halpern, to talk about her upcoming show in San Francisco.
I have to say, watching you guys on Celebrity Wife Swap was painful. I felt so bad for Elysa. I mean, really. She was stuck in the fucking desert outside Vegas with Penn (from Penn & Tellar) in that monstrous tacky-ass house with those two weirdo kids? <Laughs> You know, we were there first gay couple to participate in that show!? I love that they don’t say it – but it’s true. And oddly, our family looked so much more traditional than the hetero couple? <laughs>
Absolutely! You guys were so much more relatable than they were. Were we?! That’s a first! <laughs> Doing that show was a bit crazy, but at the end of the day, I think Elysa really helped them. You know, Penn has lost over a hundred pounds since that shoot because he took her advice on being more active. I was really proud of her – and of my boys for participating in Wife Swap.
Correct me if I’m wrong, did you lose your mother recently? I did. My mother passed away about three weeks ago (June 17th). Although I will admit that it’s been really hard – I’m so grateful, you know, because I had my mother for 52 years. I am lucky.
Was she in good health? She was 92. She was ready to go. But that doesn’t diminish the loss. You know? I look at the horrific Charleston shooting tragedy and I think about those poor kids left with no parents – and I was so blessed to have my mother for so many years. Losing a mother is hard. It’s just hard. Losing a mother figure is just as hard. I mean, when Joan Rivers died, I was also very sad and very upset. It was so unexpected.
Ironically, the last conversation I had with Joan Rivers before she died was about my mother dying. She said to me ‘it doesn’t matter how old she is, it doesn’t matter if you’re expecting it or not – it’s going to be a big loss. It’s going to hurt.’ And then Joan died. And that hurt. She was a pioneer – and a mother to me in so many ways.
I was raised by my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. She suffered from Alzheimer’s Dementia — so she was bat shit crazy – but physically healthy for like 10 years. It was exquisitely painful to watch her just deteriorate. That’s when I thought to myself ‘holy shit, I don’t wanna get old. I wanna die young.’ My father died swimming 25 years ago – he had a heart attack. That’s the way to go.. My mother passed away on Wednesday, June 17th – I was there with her on the Monday before doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. We just never know when our time will come. I guess that’s one of life’s oldest clichés, right?
Well I saw your twitter post – just the one Tweet and the photo of your mom – so I wasn’t really sure if it had just happened or if you were thinking of your mom. You know, I love social media for some things – but I also hate it for other things. I know that it’s part of my career and I have to do this. But then when something like a death happens – I don’t want to share it. Or I don’t want to overshare it, if that makes sense. I don’t want to share too much or reveal too much. I’m a very private person at my core, but social media – it’s kind of invasive by nature.
The Internet has changed the world – but the Internet is not always the best way to tell people things or share things, especially things that are personal and emotional. I mean, I still write handwritten ‘thank you’ notes. It’s crazy. Inevitably, the person I send the note to always calls me to thank me for the thank you note. <laughs>
Well, there is something sweet and nostalgic about that. I love that. Because it’s an effort. It takes an effort – and that has meaning too.
Will the show be monologues, stand-up – or maybe you playing the clarinet for a few hours? I think we were both band nerds in high school. <laughs> I was totally a band nerd! Well, it’s pretty much stand up for the night. It’s my raw and fearless standup. You know, someone asked me the other day – ‘what’s the difference between difference between your comedy 30 years ago and now?’ and I said ‘more life experience – and less fear.’ And that’s who I am. Listen, you get to a certain age and you can’t get hurt so easily. I can get through anything. I’ve been there. I’ve done it all. I get it.
Where were you when you heard the Marriage Equality ruling from the Supreme Court? How did you feel? I was at home. I had gone to synagogue that morning and I was taking a nap – Elysa woke me up with the news. It was kind of overwhelming.
Did you ever think we’d see the day? When I think of myself as a little girl, it never even entered my mind. No. I never thought it. Well, not until recently of course, but I said to a friend’s child who is gay ‘I am so happy that you have this future ahead of you.’ We didn’t know that a future like this was possible. We didn’t have this to look forward to.
We thought we’d have to lie about ourselves to have kids or marriage. And that’s not having it! Lying about who you are and lying about your family – that’s not having it. People don’t realize, as gay people we have to come out almost everyday. I mean, everyday I get into a cab and the driver might say ‘wow, your son is so tall – is his father tall?’ and I have to answer ‘there is no father.’ I mean, we have to give all these explanations about simple things.
For these gay teenagers to realize that they can have a home and a spouse and kids and everything in life that straight people have – it’s a new day. It’s a beautiful new day.
But at the same time I have this real sadness that I am here to witness this moment in history – and so many who fought so hard, for so very long – are not here to see this. All the work that some of these people put in – and they don’t get to savor this moment. Harvey Milk is not here to see this?! But then of course, you have these fucking assholes in Alabama and Louisiana who are saying ‘we’re not going to comply with the law.’ Fuck you! This country was based on the firm belief in the separation of church and state – and I don’t need my legislators making decisions based on the fucking bible. Are you kidding me?! Decisions about our culture should be made on facts. History. Ethics. Science. Morals. That’s how you make decisions.
There is this veil of stupidity that has suddenly been pulled back. And now you see all these homophobic people just having a field day holding up the bible. Do you think that if it wasn’t for Loving vs Virginia, the South would have passed interracial marriages?! Absolutely not! It takes a case like this to change the way the nation sees things. This is why our democracy works. This is why we’re Americans. This is about our civil rights and not about religion. Be clear, there is no war on Christians. Look at the facts – where do gays go to get married… they go to the fucking courthouse and sign papers. They don’t go to churches.
Here’s the other thing, now there is the backlash. It gives them a platform to be homophobic and anti-gay. Now every kid who is living in Alabama and Texas and Louisiana and has to hear this bullshit from their politicians and from the people in their community, it’s horrible. Every kid who grows up there has to hear fucking Bobby Jindal and these fucking assholes telling them that who they are is somehow less – and they may want to kill themselves. Fuck you, Bobby Jindal.
It’s so hard when I think someone is intelligent and then they say something so unintelligent – and I am in that place where I have to decide – do I educate them, or do I turn away from this stupidity? It’s our job to educate them. I have had fights with people I went to high school with over the fucking rainbow flag. I have to explain to them that it’s about equality. It’s about ALLLLL of us – gay, straight, white, black, Latino, Christian, Jewish, Republican, Democrat — everyone of us being included and having a seat at the table. I shouldn’t have to get a lawyer involved to live my life with the person I love. I should be able to visit the person I love in the hospital without having to involve a lawyer. I should be able to marry them – like everyone else. I want my happily-ever-after too, damn it!
What do you think about all these county clerks just walking off the job or refusing to issue the marriage licenses based on their religious convictions? It’s the fucking law! It’s the law of this land. Listen, I’m kosher. I didn’t eat a cheeseburger until I was in college. But did I run around trying to keep everyone from eating a cheeseburger?! Was I knocking cheeseburgers out of everyone’s hands? No! That would be crazy.
Did you come out intentionally or were you outed? I was never really ‘In’ but I just never talked about it. But honestly, in 1996, when Henry was born – I had so much material. I mean, every comic talks about their family in their act. So, why shouldn’t I? But also – what kind of message am I sending to my kids if I am like ‘hush, let’s not talk about this’. You know? I wanted to be honest. I wanted to teach my kids to be honest –and also to be proud of where they came from. I didn’t want it to be some secret. It’s not a secret. I wanted to talk about my life in my act – and I didn’t talk about being a ‘gay’ parent. I talked about being a parent. People responded to it in a very positive way.
What do you think about Caitlyn Jenner? I am having a hard time with it on some levels, I must admit. It’s not reality. It’s some fantasy Real-Housewives bullshit. It’s insanity. I’m sorry, it’s just not fucking reality for most people in the trans-community. They don’t have these kinds of resources. I mean, you’re not the most handsome, masculine man on a Wheaties box one day – and then a beautiful woman on the cover of Vanity Fair the next? Are you kidding me?! That’s not how it happens. People in the trans-community deal with tough, lifelong issues. They have trouble finding employment. The murder rate is unbelievably high for people in the trans-community. They are not agonizing over what gown to wear?! Are you kidding me?! They have real battles to fight and real issues to deal with.
LGBT has always been one community, but upon closer inspection, we are now realizing that the ‘T’ is a whole new issue. The gender issue is so different from sexuality. I think we’ve confused straight people and we have to educate them again. They shouldn’t be confused. Not everyone is straight. That’s just the way it is. But that doesn’t mean we all don’t want and deserve the same things in life. They should be more confused by all the straight people who make a commitment and cheat – and don’t respect their own marriages. Furthermore, it’s much easier to explain to child about what transgender means than why Daddy cheated on Mommy. You know?
Social media is a modern construct. As it happens, this generation is not looking for friends- they’re looking for followers. When I hear ‘followers’ I think of Jim Jones. That crazy man had followers. When we were kids we had to negotiate, make up games – use our imaginations. We had to learn all that ‘human behavior’ stuff that we would apply later in adulthood. Now we can’t lift our heads up – because we’re always on our fucking phones. The Apple Watch?! It tells you when you need to get up and walk around. <laughs> I’m like ‘hey, I think I wanna get up and walk around – but the watch says it’s not time yet’.
Thank you so much for chatting with me on the holiday. I only found out a few days ago that you were going to be in San Francisco. Actually, I only found out a few days ago that San Francisco was booked <laughs> – so I’m thrilled to talk to the people there – I need to get the word out. I always love playing San Francisco – you guys always show us such a good time.
Emmy Award winning actress and comedian, Judy Gold, will bring her comedic styling to Feinstein’s at the Nikko for one performance only on Thursday, July 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets for Judy Gold range in price from $25 – $40 and are on-sale now and available by calling 866.663.1063 or visiting www.ticketweb.com.