Jewish Women Joking, and Nodding to the Past
Intermittent pleasure mingles with persistent illustration of the excruciating arduousness of stand-up comedy in “The J.A.P. Show: Jewish American Princesses of Comedy,” which began an open-ended run at the Actors Temple Theater on Wednesday night.
Part showcase for its four stars, part salute to the female comics who achieved renown in the post-World War II years, this 95-minute intermissionless show is a mixed blessing.
Alternating routines by Cathy Ladman, Jessica Kirson, Jackie Hoffman and Cory Kahaney with delightful filmed clips from performances by its designated “Queens of Comedy,” including Betty Walker, Jean Carroll, Totie Fields and Belle Barth, the show bats about .400.
For baseball players that’s a super average. For comics it means there is plenty of room for improvement. For audiences it means laughs along with longueurs.
Combing intelligence and spleen, Ms. Hoffman, as usual, delivers an admirable performance. Recycling some material from her justifiably popular and bilious winter performances at Joe’s Pub, she also has the true jester’s audacity to spin timely humor out of the Don Imus uproar, sing nastily about Upper West Side women and speculate on the joys of quaffing the contents of the drain of a George Foreman grill.
Ms. Ladman and Ms. Kahaney have their moments. Ms. Ladman mines a History Channel remark about the relationship between Hitler and Eva Braun for a bright analysis of her marriage, but some of her other material fails to rise beyond the obvious. Ms. Kahaney is at her best in eviscerating her relationship with her father through her “sister,” adopted by him through a television appeal, and in her imitation of a Madison Avenue salesgirl from Israel. But her reflections on teenage children and the dating habits of Jews and gentiles lack novelty.
Ms. Kirson’s repeated comments on the audience’s failure to respond to her routine made clear the need for revision of the material.
Sometimes the fault is in the stars.