In the beginning, there were just old Jews telling jokes—you know, Uncle Buddy down in Boca or grandpa’s bawdy second wife Hettie. Then, in 2008, filmmaker Sam Hoffman had the idea of filming some of his favorite old Jews telling jokes. He created a website and posted a series of “Old Jews Telling Jokes” videos that soon attracted a devoted following. The most popular jokes (such as this one, about giving directions) have been viewed well over a million times.
Now, at the initiative of Daniel Okrent—the first public editor for the New York Times—and writer and editor Peter Gethers, Old Jews Telling Jokes has been re-purposed as a theatrical production, complete with a narrative through-line and cabaret-style musical numbers. Currently in previews, it opens May 20 at the Westside Theater in Manhattan.
Independent producer Eric Molinsky speaks to Hoffman, Okrent, Gethers, and (old Jewish) actors Marilyn Sokol and Todd Sussman about how a collection of tall tales about rabbis, doctors, and plumbers became a night of musical theater. [Running time: 10:33.]