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A CurtainUp Review
The J.A.P. Show,
Jewish American Princesses of Comedy
By Elyse Sommer
With a title like The J.A.P. Show, don't expect its four-star cast of stand-up comediennes to abandon these staple targets for Jewish comedy. And why should they? After all it's the comfort food familiarity of jokes relying on well-mined targets that is the foundation of Jewish and other ethnic humor's enduring and ever updatable appeal.
To give the show a theatrical hook, Cory Kahaney, the show's creator and one of the four "Princesses" dishing out their often bawdy and self-deprecating routines, has combined what is essentially a quadruple dose of stand-up comedy with a tribute to some of the funny ladies who are today's comedienne's forbears. Unless you're collecting social security Totie Fields, Belle Barth, Jean Carroll, and Pearl Williams may be just names to you, but not to worry. Each joke telling set by one of the four "Princesses" ends with a brief biography of one of these 1950s women, the narrative illustrated with film clips projected on hanging circles by video designer Aaron Rhyne and scenic designer Jo Winiarski. These entr'acte trips down memory lane are fun and funny but they're mere snippets since the show's meat and potatoes or brisket and kishkas belongs to Kahaney and her fellow hot NOW colleagues Jackie Hoffman, Jessica Kirson and Cathy Ladman.
Short as the illustrated narratives about the long gone comediennes are, they are tied together more than the live funny ladies' sets. The opening and closing solos (Kahaney and Landman) are the smoothest and most polished, though I couldn't help wishing that the one who told the joke about Asian men had been more quick on the improvisational draw and changed or eliminated what in the light of the Virginia college tragedy came off in the worst possible taste.
Jackie Hoffman, the only cast member well known to regular theater goers (she created one of the key roles in the long-running Hairspray on Broadway) kvetches, screeches and sings in her own inimitable fashion. However, her material is largely recycled from her popular shows at Joe's Pub. The one wild, anything-goes turn comes from Jessica Kirson, a big mama of a performer with a knack for physical shtick.
The Actor's Temple where the likes of Shelley Winters, several of the Three Stooges and Sophie Tucker at one time attended services is an apt venue for this modern Borscht Belt evening. On the other hand, and as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, put it, there's always an "on the other hand," this was established as an orthodox temple where women weren't even allowed to sit downstairs with the men—let alone stand on the bema and tell jokes that would make the rabbi and the congregation blush and yell "a Shande.". On the other hand (yes, another) any rabbi would be happy to see every seat of his synagogue filled as this one was on the night I was there.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide