It used to be that if you wanted to hear old Jews telling jokes, you had to have an Internet connection. No longer! In yet another blog-to-not-blog transition, Old Jews Telling Jokes is getting ready to make its move to the New York stage. Previews for the upcoming off-Broadway show start May 1 and opening is scheduled for May 20. All this despite the very idea sounding fundamentally misguided.
I kid, of course. (Just a joke from a not-old but not-young Jew; it's my understanding that the jokes will get better as I get older.) Taking the tummler Tumblr offline and putting it in front of an audience isn't the same as compiling the best of Fail Blog as a book or trying to translate $#*! My Dad Says into a television show. It's an acknowledgement of, and return to, its roots in the vaudeville and Borscht Belt traditions that produced many of the jokes (and solidified most of the comedic sensibility) in the first place. What's not to like?
Even so, will it work? Part of the charm of the website is in the purity of its formula: one old Jew, one (old) joke, entirely blank backdrop so that nothing distracts from those first two parts. There's also the low-investment appeal of being able to click on as many, or as few, videos as you like and stop when you've had your fill. (Insert "... and such small portions" punchline at your leisure.)
The stage production, on the other hand, promises costumes, props, sets and songs. And it will lack not just the simplicity but the quick-hit factor of the blog, asking its audience to get out of the house, drop a few bucks and sit down for (I would assume) over an hour as old Jew after old Jew tells joke after joke. As popular as the site may be, that's a different experience altogether, requiring a different commitment.
Still, the concept is, as it has always been, rock-solid. It's old Jews. Telling jokes. "Casting has not been announced," says the New York Times's Arts Beat. I have some ideas about who to look for.