NY Theater Review Sandi Durell
On a barebones stage with a table, a chair and big screen at the Cherry Lane Theater, Joy Behar is doing what she always does – make people laugh by virtue of telling her own life stories. Of course, there’s time allotted to talk about her 16 years on “The View” with Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg, along with her liberal left jabs at the politicians who will never come back as she pleasurably belittles Sarah Palin, John McCain but had to leave Mitt Romney out because he wouldn’t come on the show – Obama told her he’s afraid of her!
No one is left unscathed by the mouth of Joy Behar: Andrea Bocelli – although he’s blind, gets the gorgeous girlfriends whom he can’t see anyway or the Hasidim who, says she, want to make a fashion statement and yet serve the Lord.
Born Josephine Victoria Occhiuto in Williamsburg, it seems she was the Shirley Temple of Metropolitan Avenue, always willing to entertain family and friends from an early age. She describes her parents as “the depressives,” spending a fair amount of time going to family funerals and over-hearing conversations like “ it looks like he’s sleeping. . . does he always sleep in a tuxedo?” In fact, some of her most memorable childhood photos are of her posing next to tombstones!
She was very close to her Aunt Rose who imparted important lessons – “varicose veins are hemorrhoids that drop to your legs.” And the person Joy found most exciting to meet – Catherine Deneuve as photos of each popped up on the screen for comparison. Aunt Rose? Catherine Deneuve!
Although Joy auditioned for a performing arts school, she never made it but did go to Queens College where she met her first husband in sociology class; a tall, skinny Jew with an astigmatism. A wedding in Church and a ceremony at Leonard’s of Great Neck under a hoopa, a baby and then, the unthinkable, he moves her out to Exit 60, LIE, Ronkonkoma, with the two Bassett hounds, while he’s off to Tijuana to do research. Rather than go crazy she found an acting class at Exit 39 and eventually got her husband to move them back to Brooklyn.
From there it’s a long story of her upward climb as a comedienne – from the Improv to an audition at NBC and a chance to appear on Saturday Night Live that never happened. Instead, she wound up as a receptionist at Good Morning America, edging her way into the comedy circuit in gay bars in Greenwich Village at night. But when the husband wanted to move back to Exit 60, it was time for a divorce. After getting fired from GMA, with no job, no money at age 40, she needed out of Brooklyn. We even get a special video treat of her going away party as she’s leaving that grand borough to make her new home in the Big Apple and be close to the comedy circuit. Well, within six months of getting fired from GMA, she was a guest on that show and success was in the stars as her life took a 180 turn.
She’s got comical bits about John Bobbitt and her one regret – she never got to interview Lorena Bobbitt.
There’s no doubt this is one funny lady with a delivery reminiscent of Jackie Mason and you get to hear it all in 90 minutes at the Cherry Lane Theatre in “Me, My Mouth and I” running thru December 21st www.cherrylanetheatre.org