"Old Jews Telling Jokes," the off-Broadway celebration of Jewish comedy penned by the president of Random House Studio and the former public editor of the New York Times, is to have a dedicated commercial Chicago production this fall at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St.
Created by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent and replete with a title of descriptive simplicity, "Old Jews Telling Jokes" is a five-actor comedy revue inspired by the website, OldJewsTellingJokes.com, created by Sam Hoffman. That site, as one might expect, features old Jews telling jokes (60 is the minimum age to recount a gag). The show, however, does not restrict itself to stand-up comedy of a certain vintage, although it's certainly rooted in lines like "Did you hear the one about the Rabbi?"
The idea for the show was hatched after Okrent made an appearance on the site and promptly told his friends. "I was the youngest old Jew on there," he said, proudly, in a telephone interview this week. Those friends included Gethers.
"I had found myself checking that website four or five times a week for a year," Gethers said, on the same call. "So we decided to option the website and make something for the theater."
Okrent said that many of the narrative jokes have been dramatized: stand-up thus morphs into sketches. Both men said that they are interested in exploring the history of Jewish comedy, especially as it relates to dealing with adversity. Still, Gethers claimed, the show is "eighty percent hilarious jokes."
"And almost every night," Gethers said, discussing the audience, "we have one person who loves to yell out the punchline.
And who wrote these gags? "We stole them," said Ockrent, who once held reporters and editors to account. "We plucked them from the public domain."
The Chicago roll-out of "Old Jews" will be the first production outside of New York; London is to be next. Opening night is slated for Oct. 2.
For more information, visit http://oldjewstellingjokesonstage.com/chicago