Jacqueline Novak




By Myra Chanin


Why would anyone who’s been cashing social security checks for over 20 years go out on a deadly hot evening to watch a comedian she’s never heard of ruminate on blow jobs for an intermission-less 90 minutes. J’accuse Mike Birbiglia! The writer/performer/sleepwalker whose unique shows I always go out of my way to see. I find him unusual, exceptional, smart, edgy, both honest and truthful and hilarious. He utters an observation only after he’s given it extensive thought and supplied it with perfect phrasing. He’s a meticulous and reflective observer of life who has made me laugh out loud often and for extended periods of time.

He’s also the executive producer of Jacqueline Novak’s Get On Your Knees, so I assumed she would hold a candle to him. I also thought he believed that what he wrote on his blurb on the press release, that Novak was “completely original, hilarious, cathartic and personal,” and that her work was “brilliant without short-changing the audience on laughs,” was true.

That last quote should have given me pause. I believed Birbiglia was too precise in his use of the English language to use “brilliant” so profligately. It’s this year’s word! I understand that British server’s now often use the word to respond to a diner’s ordering a double expresso. I don’t know what the world is coming to. In the house in which I grew up the only earthly object worthy of having the word brilliant applied to it was Albert Einstein.



Jacqueline Novak looks like an ordinary girl. Jeans. A Grey t-shirt. Sneaks. Moves the mic stand. Removes the mic and holds it and the show starts. She seems likable enough. As for me I was ready for an observer just as she was described. And I laughed initially, which is what I was there for. I was taken with her for 15 about minutes…which was when I first glanced at my watch to see how long I was gonna be trapped in The Cherry Tree. And after that I glanced at my watch more frequently. My companion was considerably younger and sexier. He laughed more but I saw him glance at his watch one third of the way through. You can’t talk about blow jobs for 90 minutes. She agreed but her diversions didn’t divert me. Why would I care if she wants to be a ghost?

Sexuality is always interesting and it’s usually funny, because that’s the way God wanted it. To give a blow job is work, it often requires twisting the female body into an uncomfortable or ludicrous stance almost as complicated and unnatural as properly addressing a golf ball with a club. I also found Novak’s delivery draggy. I could have done with less diversions or more historically interesting and researched facts. Compile some statistics. Compare the number of blow jobs in the Old and New Testaments. How many were there? Who got any from whom on the way to Canterbury.

Enough about me. I’m not her audience. They were far more amused by her than I. There were lots of laughs from a full house which was good and meant that what she described were embarrassing moments that they were familiar with. At the end of the show she was rewarded with loud and steady applause but no standing ovation.

I’ve seen funnier comics, but I’m old, so most of them are dead. Alan King. Joan Rivers. George Carlin, Sid Caesar are only alive and kicking on YouTube. Check them out. But Mel Brooks, who in my mind, is very close to brilliant made a pithy comment about the penis that’s funnier and smarter than anything I heard Ms. Novak say that night. Brooks spoke about how God valued the penis and concluded that “If God thought it was that important, he would have put a skull around it.”

In addition, I heard many women give up secrets, but not one of them included, “I love giving blow jobs!” But others may. When Scotty Bowers who supplied the stars of the Silver Screen with sexual playmates during Hollywood’s Golden Age was asked how his client, Charles Laughton, spent his time with the boys Scotty sent over, he said Loughton just wanted to get on his knees.


Cherry Lane Theater Through August 18 (directed by John Early) www.getonyourkneesshow.com