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Old Jews Telling Jokes: New Jewish Theatre's production is exactly that – and funny, too



"My wife likes to talk to me during sex. She calls me up and says: 'Nathan, I'm having sex.'"


Don't worry, folks. We got million of 'em. Or at least the cast of New Jewish Theatre's funny little show, Old Jews Telling Jokes does.

Like this:

"Doctor, Doctor, I can't pee."

"How old are you, Mr. Shapiro?"

"I'm 91."

"You've peed enough."

Created by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent, this slender revue is based on a website of the same name that features video clips of, well, old Jews telling jokes. But instead of simply having individuals joking, Gethers and Okrent have smartly put together a small cast of loosely consistent characters to present their schticks.

For instance, there's the slightly ditsy Debbie, a winning Johanna Elkana-Hale, who tells us: "My boyfriend got the phrase 'I love you' tattooed on his penis. I told him, 'Stop putting words in my mouth.'"

Under director Edward Coffield's guidance, the show trips quickly along, a mix of straight stand-up, funny musical numbers, stories and briefly acted vignettes where the actors assume different characters.

"Three Jewish mothers are sitting on a bench," says Nathan, a hilarious Bobby Miller.

"Oyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy," says Debbie.

"Aiiiiiiiiiii. Gevalt," says Reuben (David Cooperstein), briefly in Jewish mother drag.

"Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Vey ist mir," counters Debbie.

"I thought we weren't going to talk about the children," says Bunny, a brassy Stellie Siteman.

It's a simple show that needs little more than a few chairs and a video projector. By that measure, Peter and Margery Spack's set is smartly put together, with walls and ramps for exits and photos of funny Jews pasted everywhere.

A very good Craig Neuman rounds out the cast as Morty, who opens the show by telling us: "A Russian, a Frenchman and a Jew are lost in the desert. The Russian says, 'Ach, I'm tired and thirsty — I must haf some wodka.' The Frenchman says, 'Mon dieu, I am tired and zirsty, I must have ze wine.' The Jew says, 'Oy, I'm so tired and thoisty — I must have diabetes.'"

Not every joke hits the mark, but with a slight running time of around 80 minutes, those dead spots are mercifully brief. The gags that do land can be laugh-out-loud hilarious. And judging by a few of the audience members — who recited punch lines as the cast delivered them — some of the material is as old (and funny) as the titular Jews onstage. 

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