Comedian, writer and actor Judy Gold proclaims that she is a proud Jew. To that end, “The most important part of Judaism is tikkun olam—to repair the world,” she asserted. The 57-year-old has been weathering the pandemic in Provincetown, where she performs outdoors on a hotel patio. “Live audiences for comedians are the equivalent of oxygen for the rest of us,” she said.

Gold recently wrote a book about comedians and censorship called “Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble.” Comedy “is the only art form where you inform the work in progress,” she said. “Oftentimes, comedians don’t know where the line is, and an audience lets them know that. You can’t crucify comedians for doing their job.”

The mother of two young adult sons, Gold plans to spend the High Holidays in Provincetown, where she will attend synagogue services virtually. “You don’t have to deal with all the mishegas with a Zoom synagogue,” she joked. “You can sleep, and no one will notice!”

Gold recently spoke to JewishBoston about a range of topics, including her new book, Jewish mothers and Joan Rivers.

You wrote an entire show about Jewish mothers. Tell us about that.

Well, first of all, we’re very special! We’re exceptional people. I feel you’re lucky if you have a Jewish mother. And I feel like not all Jewish mothers are Jewish. I have heard so many times, “My mother’s not Jewish, but she’s a Jewish mother.” I think it’s a term of endearment. It’s an adjective for, “My mother loves me so much.” You know you’re loved even though they aggravate you.

Here’s the fact of the matter: People always ask where this whole Jewish mother stereotype came from. If you were kicked out of every country your entire existence, you’d also be a little overprotective and worried all the time. If your grandmother is neurotic, then your mother’s going to be neurotic, and then it’s going to be you. Go back to the beginning of time. It’s like, “Take care! Gotta get out now!” Of course we’re going to be a little high-strung.

One of your idols was Joan Rivers, right?

Joan was my Jewish comedy mother. She was so fearless, so smart, kind, classy, and was never more relevant than when she died at 82. And she is a lesson in so many things—in work ethic, in great jokes. When she died, Chris Rock said, “Joan Rivers is Mount Rushmore.” Joan had such a profound effect on so many comedians. As a Jewish girl growing up in the suburbs in the ’60s and ’70s, for me to see this brash, Jewish woman telling it like it is on TV was amazing. She was a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and she shattered a lot of glass ceilings. She had to fight for every bit of success she had. After Johnny Carson wouldn’t talk to her and after her husband died by suicide, she was persona non grata. She never gave up. I worshipped her. I still worship her.

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In your book, you address when great comedians do bad things. Can you elaborate?

Stand-up is such an interesting art form. We’re truth-tellers and we bare our souls on stage. You think you really know the person. Humor is disarming; it educates. It’s a powerful position to be the joke-teller. When you do something off-stage that’s awful, oftentimes people cannot separate the person from the act. We comedians bring joy and laughter—you can’t separate that from the person.

For example, Bill Cosby is disgusting and horrible. He’s a felon, a predator, just awful. Yet I write in the book about how I was going to a gig and there was a driver who just couldn’t get it. I finally said, “Dr. Huxtable didn’t do it. Bill Cosby did it.” Along the same lines, I also write about Coco Chanel. She was embedded with the Nazis. But when you go to synagogue at Rosh Hashanah, how many people have Chanel suits, Chanel scarves, Chanel purses, dresses, shoes? It’s really hard to dislike someone who makes you laugh, and then when you find out that maybe they have some really abhorrent behavior off-stage, sometimes they’re not funny anymore. But it’s hard to separate.

You’re very direct in your book about censorship and political correctness. You take no prisoners from either side of the political divide.

The original meaning of the term “politically correct” or “political correctness” is exactly what it means: the correct thing to do politically. I don’t know when people stopped listening to an entire thought, or considering intent or context or nuance. We decide a particular word is not a politically correct thing to say, so you can never say it. It’s just ridiculous. You have the very left who get upset about every little thing, and the very right who think, “I can say whatever the hell I want, even if it’s lies and it incites violence.”

There’s this idea that everything is about you. It’s not about you! When a comedian gets on stage, all they want to do is make you laugh. That’s it. That is our goal. We didn’t write the joke with you in mind, or that, “Oh my God, maybe you’re going to get offended.” If you are afraid of getting offended, don’t go to a comedy club. Don’t. Literally, don’t walk out of your house. I don’t know what happened where we’re not allowed to feel uncomfortable anymore. This idea that we have safe spaces to protect people from ever feeling bad is not reality. Every safe space has a door to the real world.

Lenny Bruce’s name is the first that comes to mind when you think of comedy and censorship. Yet he was arrested for cursing. They really wanted him for his comments about segregation, and the Vietnam War, and the government, and antisemitism and racism. All the topics they didn’t want discussed.

You write, “Loving who you love is just a part of you, but being Jewish is all of you.” You also say that being Jewish is in your DNA. Tell us more. 

Journalists ask me, “Are you more Jewish or gay?” Do you have to constantly pigeonhole people? I am a Jew. I look Jewish. I think Jewish. It’s how I talk, it’s what I eat; it’s how I see the world. It’s everything. Do or 23andMe, and there’s a Jewish gene. What other religion has its own gene? I’m proud of being Jewish, that this is who I am and that my parents were proud of it. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of antisemitism now, but there always was. There are so many people who say, “I’m Jew-ish,” or, “I’m nothing.” But you look at them and you say, “Alright, well, you’re a Jew.” I grew up in a kosher home. When it’s Rosh Hashanah, I still think it’s the New Year.

You’ve been so generous! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Oh, please! I’m a nice Jewish girl! Humor is so Jewish. People always ask me, “Why are there so many Jewish comedians?” Well, if you go to Brooklyn and Borough Park right now, you’ll see a bunch of Jews arguing over the same thing for how many thousands of years. It’s because we’re taught to look at things from all different perspectives, and thank God for that. But humor is also a weapon, and we Jews have needed plenty of weapons. So, I just want people to laugh and stop taking themselves so seriously, and to please buy my f***-ing book!

This interview has been edited and condensed.