For comedian Judy Gold, having older parents meant that feedback in her household was often quite negative. "I remember the first time I did the Tonight Show. My mother leaves me a message, 'So...I...watched...and there are so many commercials! I mean, I waited and waited...' I'm like, 'Hello! Are your other kids doing the Tonight Show?'" she told host Ophira Eisenberg. "But you don't appreciate it until you're old...and they're dead."
Appropriately, Gold is guest-starring in a new Showtime series, I'm Dying Up Here, set in the Los Angeles stand-up comedy scene of the '70s. Gold began her own career about a decade later, in the eighties. "At that time...the clubs stayed open till two, three in the morning...I would go on for some mob boss and his mistress and two drunk people in the corner, but I knew I was funny...because the band laughed...that's how you know you're funny, cause they hear everything."
As a gay and Jewish comedian, Gold has always felt that being true to herself was particularly important, even when managers would advise her to censor her work. "I had so much material from being a new mom...all these things would happen and I was like, you know, every comic talks about their families, and you have to just treat it as it is, which is a non-issue." Over the years, she's become an advocate for coming out "so [that] everyone knows they know and love a gay person, or trans person, you know?"
Today, Gold hosts a weekly podcast called Kill Me Now, where she and fellow celebrities sit down and vent about what makes them angry. "Social media, people looking at their phones...or blatant unfairness" are all top picks.
To celebrate her well-documented love for sitcoms, we decided to give Judy the synopses from particularly weird episodes of classic 70s sitcoms, and have her guess the sitcom.
JONATHAN COULTON: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Jonathan Coulton here with puzzle guru John Chaneski. Now, here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Thank you, Jonathan. Before the break, our contestant Elyzabeth won her way to the final round at the end of the show. We'll find out a little later who she will face off against. But first, it's time to welcome our special guest. She's a stand-up comic who hosts the podcast "Kill Me Now" and guest stars on Showtime's "I'm Dying Up Here" - I sense a troubling theme - so please send help to our guest, Judy Gold, everybody.
JUDY GOLD: Thank you very much. Thank you.
EISENBERG: Welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.
GOLD: I'm so excited. Do you know how excited I am to be on this show?
GOLD: Well, first of all, I listen to NPR all the time because I'm really smart, and I love you because, you know, I'm at the gym and I imagine it in my head.
GOLD: And now I'm here on stage.
EISENBERG: Is this how it looks?
GOLD: I guess it does now. Now I'll never have my old thing back in my head. You know, it'll always be this, unfortunately.
EISENBERG: So I look up to you, but I like to think we have a few things in common because we do. Both of our parents were much older than our friends' parents growing up.
GOLD: Right, yes.
EISENBERG: How do you think that influenced your comic sensibility?
GOLD: You know, it's interesting because they were very old-fashioned. Things were important to my parents and my grandmother that were not important to other people. Like, my grandmother was very into penmanship. And, like, I still to this day will handwrite thank you notes if someone invites me over for dinner. And they were - you know. Your parents are older. They're not out partying and...
GOLD: ...You know.
EISENBERG: And I feel like had a really - like maybe this is to say my parents had a very - kind of a dark sense of humor because they had been through...
GOLD: They'd been through so much stuff.
EISENBERG: They'd been through war.
GOLD: So nothing - and it's great when nothing - when you come home, you say this is great and then, you know, your mother says but just wait because it's going to turn to [expletive] in about a week and a half, you know?
GOLD: Everything was always so negative. You know, it was always - I remember the first time I did "The Tonight Show." My mother (laughter) my mother leaves me a message. (Imitating mother) So I watched.
GOLD: Pause - (imitating mother) and I, you know, there's so many commercials. I mean, I waited and waited.
I'm like, hello?
EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.
GOLD: Any of your other kids doing "The Tonight Show," you know?
EISENBERG: I know.
GOLD: But it was a lot different, but you don't appreciate it until...
EISENBERG: At the time.
GOLD: Yeah - until you're old and they're dead, so - oh, God. It's going to happen to all of you too. So, you know, definitely a different kind of upbringing.
EISENBERG: On the death thing, I do remember as a teenager saying to my mom like some sort of bratty thing. I just went - she was like, do this or whatever. I was like, well, maybe I'll die young. And she said, you won't be that lucky.
EISENBERG: I do remember that.
GOLD: (Laughter) Oh.
EISENBERG: And I was like that's - yeah.
GOLD: Oh, thanks, Mom.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) Exactly - warm. Now, you're in this new Showtime series, "I'm Dying Up Here."
GOLD: "I'm Dying Up Here" is a new Showtime series about stand-up in the '70s in LA.
EISENBERG: Were there people in the '70s that you looked up to?
GOLD: Well, I...
EISENBERG: I mean, like were - did you look up to certain comics in the '70s or listen to those records?
GOLD: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I loved Joan Rivers. First of all, there's no one with a work ethic like hers. And she was fearless and, you know, it got to the point where she just didn't care, which is where I am now but - yeah so - but I remember I would come to the city to hang out at the clubs. I would see Larry David. I would see Jerry Seinfeld. Joy Behar was just starting out - Susie Essman. I remember when I saw Carol Leifer there. I was like, oh, my God. You know, I had watched all these comics, you know, on "The Tonight Show," and I would hang out until very, very, very late. And at that time, you know, in the '80s, the clubs stayed open till 2, 3 in the morning.
GOLD: And I would go on for, you know, some mob boss and his, you know, mistress and then two drunk people in the corner. But I knew I was funny because the band laughed. If you ever go to a comedy club and they have a band or the wait staff or the people that work there actually stop to listen to you, then you know you're funny.
EISENBERG: That's how you know.
EISENBERG: Yeah, because they hear it all.
GOLD: They hear everything.
EISENBERG: Now, you know, we had a comic by the name of Cameron Esposito on our show a little while ago.
GOLD: Oh, yeah, of course.
EISENBERG: And, you know, so things are very different. For example, she starts her act basically by going I'm gay.
EISENBERG: When did you come out in your act?
GOLD: Well, I was never in, but I just didn't talk about it.
GOLD: And then I had children. And when my first son Henry was born, 1996, I had so much material from being a new mom. Like, we went to the Jew store on Broadway and 90th to get yarmulkes for the bris, right? And my ex, she likes me to call her Wendy, but - you know, because she doesn't want me to use - but her real name's Sharon.
GOLD: So we call her Shwendy (ph). Anyways so Shwendy had given birth to Henry and she had a C-section. And, you know, I said let's go for a walk. And we go to the West Side Judaica...
GOLD: ...Where I know everyone in there. It's so ridiculous. And I'm standing in line. And a woman says to me, oh, my God, that baby is so cute. And I said, thank you. How old? And I said, six days. And she said, six days? - and you, you look fabulous.
GOLD: And I said, oh, thank you very much.
GOLD: And all these things would happen. And I was like, you know, every comic talks about their families.
GOLD: And you have to just treat it as it is, which is a nonissue. It's a matter of fact, you know?
EISENBERG: So - yes, absolutely. I agree.
EISENBERG: Did you feel, like, pressure? Or did you have any manager or agents be like, don't talk about...
GOLD: Oh, 100 percent.
GOLD: Mostly the Jew stuff that they said, you're too Jewish. Don't do the Jew stuff.
GOLD: I mean, look at me. Hello?
GOLD: But yeah, the gay thing - because it was the mid '90s...
GOLD: ...I was lucky because I was up there talking about, you know, my family as a - as a gay mom. And it was so important to me to show people that my family's just like yours. We have the same issues. You're laughing at this because you identify with it.
And I ended up really starting to talk about marriage equality as well. It was all about dignity and human rights, you know? And so I really am an advocate for coming out. I won't out anyone. But I do think it's really important to come out so that everyone knows that they know and love a gay person because everyone pretty much does know and love a gay person.
GOLD: Or a trans person, you know.
EISENBERG: You have a podcast called "Kill Me Now" where you...
GOLD: Yes, I do.
EISENBERG: ...You talk with well-known celebrities, comedians about what makes them angry. So what is the most frequent thing people say ticks them off?
GOLD: I would say it's either - has to do with social media and people looking at their phones...
GOLD: ...Or blatant unfairness.
EISENBERG: All right, so if people just were kind to each other, how would your podcast still exist?
GOLD: OK, you can be kind and still look at your phone while you're walking up the subway stairs.
GOLD: And be like, you know, I'm in a rush. Get the - you know, it's just - no, there's plenty to get pissed off about.
EISENBERG: OK, good.
GOLD: There's bad drivers.
GOLD: That's beyond pissed off. That's like rage and (grunting) gross.
EISENBERG: Judy, you had a solo show in 2011 called "The Judy Show: My Life As A Sitcom." And I know that you have a well-documented love of sitcoms.
EISENBERG: So we wrote a game for you called Very Special Episodes.
EISENBERG: In this game, Jonathan and I will give you a synopsis of a particularly weird episode from a classic sitcom. And all you have to do is tell us what the sitcom is.
GOLD: Oh, OK.
EISENBERG: And if you need a hint, our puzzle guru John Chaneski's standing by.
EISENBERG: And if you get enough right, Corebett Hall (ph) from Jonesboro, Ark. is going to....
GOLD: Oh, that's right.
EISENBERG: ...Win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube. Here we go.
Edith wants to make new friends, so she answers a couple's personal ad and has them over for dinner. The couple turns out to be super friendly, like super, super friendly because guess what, they're swingers.
GOLD: "All In The Family."
EISENBERG: Yeah, that is correct.
GOLD: That's right, baby. (Singing) Boy, the way that Miller played.
COULTON: Louise finds out that someone interesting is subletting the apartment across the hall. It's Sammy Davis Jr. That's the whole episode.
JOHN CHANESKI: Louise was more commonly known to her husband by a nickname.
GOLD: Right, and the nickname was Weezy. Yeah. And it's "The Jeffersons."
OPHIRA EISENBERG AND JONATHAN COULTON: (In unison) That's right.
GOLD: (Singing) We're movin' on up...
EISENBERG AND COULTON: (Singing in unison) Movin' on up.
GOLD: ...(Singing) to the East Side...
EISENBERG AND COULTON: (Singing in unison) Movin' on up.
JUDY GOLD AND OPHIRA EISENBERG: ...(Singing in unison) To a a deluxe apartment in the sky.
GOLD: All right, go ahead.
GOLD: I get to do theme song too with it.
EISENBERG: That's great.
GOLD: OK, go.
EISENBERG: This sitcom's titular female duo wins a trip on a private chartered flight, but the pilot passes out. And guess what, there's no copilot. That's right. So our heroes must take over the plane's controls to save everyone's lives.
GOLD: I'm going to go with "Laverne & Shirley."
EISENBERG: Yeah, you're going to go with correct. That's right.
GOLD: Thank you.
EISENBERG: That's back when there were female roommates.
GOLD: Yeah, remember that?
GOLD: Yeah, I had a roommate in the '80s, too.
EISENBERG: Mary tries to impress a congresswoman by throwing her a dinner party. But everyone agrees, Mary is an awful entertainer. She only has six chairs, so Ted isn't invited. Then Rhoda shows up with Henry Winkler, who has to sit at a little table by the window.
GOLD: This is the ringtone on my phone.
GOLD: (Singing) Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? Well, it's you.
Well, I thought you were, like, joining in.
COULTON: Oh, sorry.
JUDY GOLD AND JONATHAN COULTON: (Singing in unison) You girl, and you should know it. With each glance and every little movement, you show it. Love is all around. No need to waste it. You can have the town. Why don't you take it? You're gonna make it after all.
GOLD: I'm going to go with "Mary Tyler Moore" on that one.
EISENBERG: I'm sorry, that is incorrect. No, no.
EISENBERG: Puzzle guru John Chaneski, how did Judy Gold do?
CHANESKI: Congratulations, Judy Gold. You and Corbin Hall have both won ASK ME ANOTHER other Rubik's cubes.
GOLD: Oh, my God, I'm so excited. Thank you.
EISENBERG: Judy Gold's podcast is called "Kill Me Now" and she guest stars on the Showtime series "I'm Dying Up Here." Everyone, give it up for Judy Gold.
GOLD: Thank you guys, so much fun.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.