by David Lally · November 26, 2014
Author, stand-up comic, talk show host and actress. What was left to do? How about writing and starring in your own play? That’s exactly what Joy Behar has done and the result is Me, My Mouth and I. This world premiere, now playing at The Cherry Lane Theatre, is not exactly a show you would associate with this, the city’s oldest continuously running Off-Broadway venue, known more for its Obie Award-winning Mentor Project, compelling dramas and thoughtful comedies. But it’s a great fit. After all, part of the allure of the Cherry Lane is that it has a stellar reputation as a place where aspiring playwrights and emerging voices go to showcase their work.
Like Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, this is Joy’s journey. At 72, Joy is sharper and funnier than most entertainers half her age. This is her life story, told in chronological order.
From dancing on tables in her Williamsburg kitchen to entertain the relatives, to performing for anyone who came by the apartment, including the Fuller Brush man, Joy was primed at an early age to be in the spotlight. But what’s interesting about her story is that there were stops and starts along the way. This is not a simple rags to riches, nice Italian girl from Williamsburg, Brooklyn makes good tale. It’s not a story about redemption. It’s not even a story about fighting all the obstacles this business throws at you and making it against all odds. Truth is, Joy didn’t make good until well into her forties, partly because she was living the life of housewife and school teacher out on Exit 60 in Long Island. She dreamed about it, but did very little to take those steps to having a career for a long time.
A very simple set, a podium, stool, chair and side table with a giant screen center stage behind her (complimented by the Cherry Lane’s beautifully refurbished bare brick walls) is all that’s needed to tell Joy’s story. It’s an uplifting tale of how it is never too late to start doing what you truly want to do. That there are second, third and even fourth acts in life. When most people were settling comfortably into their mid-life crises, Joy was just getting started. Joy slowly started getting breaks, little by little, from being fired as a receptionist at Good Morning, America (which turned out to be one of the best things to happen to her), to eventually being featured on the show. There are tales aplenty about her stand-up career, her parts in movies and her eventual talk show hosting gigs, including being hired by a little ABC show called The View.
This woman has a lot of experience and it shows here. Her delivery is casual and breezy, as if we, the audience, are just a group of old friends. It makes us feel comfortable and primes us to laugh. And there are laughs aplenty in her stories, mainly because of the way Joy tells them. My theatre companion for the evening said it was like she was answering all these interview questions, without having to deal with the pesky interviewer, so we can sit back and just enjoy her stories. Throughout, Joy still holds amazement and wonder about how she got to be where she is today, but at the end of the hour and a half show, you know this is exactly where Joy was destined to be.
If you’re looking for a funny and uplifting piece of entertainment this holiday season, I would heartily recommend you go spend some time with Joy Behar.