by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
All right, Doctor. I’ve got a confession to make. Oh, that’s right, you’re not a priest, are you? Even though you sit all day and listen to other people talk about all the ways they’re screwing up their lives, right? Anyway, I’m really ashamed to admit it, but last year when comedian Steve Solomon came to town with his one-person play called My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy!, I didn’t get to see it. No, I don’t have an excuse. It played for months at the Lyceum in Horton Plaza downtown, and it got extended several times, so I could have seen it. But I didn’t, and I’m ashamed of myself.
Why am I bringing this up, Doctor? Because I just got to see his sequel, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m Still in Therapy!, and guess what? It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever been to! All right, so Steve Solomon is a balding, dumpy-looking Jewish guy, and he seems to have channeled just about every Jewish comedian who ever lived, from Larry David to Woody Allen to Mel Brooks to Lenny Bruce to Henny Youngman to those guys who played in the Catskills, and probably some guy before that who had them rolling in the aisles, or whatever they had back then, in Abraham’s time. He also says his mom’s Italian, but the dialect voice he does for her doesn’t sound all that different from the one he does for his Jewish father. It’s just higher-pitched and whinier.
But none of that matters, because, Doctor, Steve Solomon is funny. His new show takes place at a retirement home in Florida where he’s waiting for his family to arrive so he can throw a surprise birthday party for his dad. He’s even got a table full of gifts in packages, along with some bits of something that looks like food, and he’s got a banner on the wall above the table that says, “HAPPY BIRTDAY, LOUIE!” That’s “birtday,” without the “h.” Only he decides while he’s waiting to make a call on his cell phone to see if he can settle a $10,000 mistake on his bill. Yeah, you had that happen too, Doctor?
Well, the moment he makes the call he has to go through voicemail hell. Not only is his call answered with one of those Goddamned recordings, it’s in Spanish, and he has to figure out how to go through all those stupid menus. Remember when a menu was a list of foods you could eat at a restaurant? Yeah, me too. And when he finally punches the button to get connected to someone who speaks English, the person who answers is a guy from India who sounds like the casting director of Slumdog Millionaire rejected him because nobody in the U.S. or England could possibly understand him.
It’s like I’ve always said: for all too many people, and especially for all too many corporations, the “communications revolution” has been all about finding more and more creative ways not to communicate. I remember reading an obituary for the guy who invented voicemail and wishing there’s a hell so he can be in the nastiest, worst possible part of it — what Dante called the “ninth circle” — so he can suffer for all eternity the tortures of the damned he’s made us suffer all these years. Doctor? You can wake up now. I’m done with my tirade.
But I was talking about Steve Solomon, wasn’t I? Anyway, his show — no, don’t worry, it doesn’t have any nasty jokes about therapy — it’s all about his crazy family, including his sister, whom he calls “The Smoker” because she’s been smoking so long she can barely get three words out without falling into these wracking coughs. Yeah, just like my Jewish mom before she finally gave it up in her 80’s. And he got married and then he and his wife divorced when he was in his 50’s, so he can do jokes about his marriage and about suddenly being thrown back into the dating world when he’s middle-aged.
What’s really remarkable about Steve Solomon is he can tell the raunchiest jokes and do some really sick material and still have you laughing. The tale of how his first child got born by C-section is grotesque, but it’s also side-splitting. He even does fart jokes, and oh, how I hate fart jokes — and his fart jokes are funny! They’re the funniest fart jokes I’ve heard since I saw Blazing Saddles! And he talks about people “doing it” — young people, old people, people next to him on a ship whom he can hear through paper-thin walls, with this woman’s voice calling out “Marvin!” and he figures the guy’s last name is “Moore” because she keeps going, “Marvin! Moore! Marvin! Moore!” Yeah, that show with the long and awkward title — oh, yeah, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m Still in Therapy! — it’s hilarious!
Oh, Doctor, you want to know how to go see it? It’s playing through Sunday, September 9 at the Lyceum Space — that’s not the Stage, that’s the Space, you know, that crazy theatre down there where the seats aren’t even bolted to the floor. No, I’m not kidding. The performances are Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The tickets are $45 to $55 — yeah, I know that’s a bit steep, but it’s worth it — and you can get them at the Lyceum Theatre box office at (619) 544-1000 or online at www.lyceumevents.org. And if you’ve got 12 or more people crazy enough to go to this show with you, you can call 1-(888) 264-1788 and ask for a group discount. Believe me, Doctor, you’ll want to see this show!
Mark Gabrish Conlan really does have an Irish father and a Jewish mother, and “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m Still in Therapy!” reminded him a lot of his mom and her Jewish relatives.