New York | 1h 30m | Ends Mar 31

A Jewish Joke

From 18 critic and 40 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Slow, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant

About the show

In this solo dramedy, Bernie Lutz is a curmudgeonly Jewish comedy screenwriter from MGM, who comes up against the Communist blacklist in 1950’s Hollywood. More…

Now, he has to decide what's more important - his friends, or his livelihood? Armed with stories about the great era of Jewish humor, "A Jewish Joke" is about one American's fight against one of the darkest moments of the mid-20th century. 

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"With taut direction by David Ellenstein, Johnson recounts Bernie’s story between phone calls as step by step the situation becomes fraught with increasing tension and danger to his career...The process of reading gags from Bernie’s collection periodically breaks the tension...The strength of the play, which lasts 90 minutes without an intermission, lies in uncertainty right up to the bitter end. Johnson does a superb job connecting with his audience." Full Review


"'A Jewish Joke' brings immediacy to not only the personal and professional effects of the Hollywood blacklist, but to the current onslaught of internet finger-pointing and fear-mongering that can, and does, ruin lives even more quickly than in the slow-moving fifties. Watching Bernie squirm and sweat over issues not of his own making, but issues that will take him down, is made only slightly more palatable by his self-deprecating humor." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Director David Ellenstein keeps the show moving, but this is Mr. Johnson’s piece. He embodies those men who were up against the wall and used a much humor as they could to survive this hellish attack on humanity based not on facts, but trumped up lies and fear...This play made me remember that time in history and the fact this should NEVER happen again." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

"Johnson’s delivery embodies the period-style clichés, in the neurotic goofball shtick of the wisecracking writer’s cynical jokes, then increasingly captures the man’s real emotional reactions to the slow-paced disclosures...’A Jewish Joke’ not only presents audiences with a flashback to the tastes of the mid-century and a personal perspective on a disturbing slice of American history, but also offers an implicit warning not to let it happen again,." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"A crowded, unsubtle piece, jammed with annoyingly incessant, desperate phone business, including frustrated banging of the receiver...Extraneous issues…further clutter the narrative…This should be tour-de-force territory, and Johnson's intensely strenuous efforts are likely to be appreciated as such by some. For my gelt, however, he lacks the innately East Coast tone of, let's say, a Jackie Mason or a Mel Brooks, although faintly shadowing their aggressive mannerisms." Full Review

Off Off Online

"When it falters, does so because the script is, at times, contrived or repetitious. When it succeeds, it does so because Phil Johnson so fully inhabits his role that his character’s stressed-out persona transcends the page...Bernie frequently turns to the audience and tells one of the many off-color gags he has collected on index cards. Most are groaners and, whether meant to be awful or not, they do keep the audience from becoming too emotionally caught up in Bernie’s dilemma." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"It’s a sound set-up for drama, but 'A Jewish Joke' fails to deliver. First, there is nothing particularly Jewish about the political landscape it evinces...Despite excellent staging by David Ellenstein and an evocative set design by Michael Joseph Ormond, this hackneyed production adds little to what we already know about Joseph McCarthy’s campaign to rid the U.S. of the 'Red Menace.' Worse, it does nothing to help viewers connect the dots to contemporary political concerns." Full Review

Theater That Matters

“Zero drama...For a ‘dramedy’ that surely fancies itself more comedy than drama, having the majority of laughs coming from the occasional joke spouted off a notecard isn’t exactly a good sign...The evening didn’t do much for me...The whole blacklisting movement isn’t really addressed with any depth—fine, so if that was the case, what’s left is a borderline unlikable, snarky comedy writer fumbling around his office answering phone calls for 90 minutes with no intermission. " Full Review

San Diego Union-Tribune

for a previous production "True to the play’s title, there’s plenty of humor...But there’s much more as well, because the piece — as off-the-wall as it can be at times — grapples seriously with such issues as bigotry and political hysteria and the dangers of unchecked authority...Ellenstein directs the piece with an expert feel for the ebb and flow of emotions...Bernie and the play also make a great case for the place of Jewish humor in American life...A show that sparkles with not-so-common wit and wisdom." Full Review

The Arts STL

for a previous production "Highly engaging and gut-wrenchingly authentic...Johnson’s performance was exceptional. His ability to cope with his world crashing around him while delivering clever and entertaining jokes was outstanding...His dramatic performances were sincere and his comedic delivery was top notch. His ability to deliver a 90-minute monologue without losing his passion and focus was inspiring...A gripping drama mixed with a healthy dose of comedy make this production a must-see." Full Review

STL Jewish Light

for a previous production "Under the nimble direction of David Ellenstein, Johnson combines the timing and irony of the best of the Jewish stand-up comics with the virtuoso skills of a show business wheeler-dealer...Johnson gives a bravura performance as Lutz...Johnson is convincing in a physically and emotionally demanding role. At first he tries to deflect his gnawing dread of a collapsing career with wisecracks...'A Jewish Joke” brilliantly proves that the blacklist was no laughing matter." Full Review

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

for a previous production "Johnson’s script is brilliant in weaving both comedy (lots of Jewish jokes) and the fear, confusion, and what turns out to be the agony of a man not only unjustly accused, but asked to either admit his 'betrayal' or to rat on his partner Morris...Johnson is utterly believable, so much so that you’ll feel that he’s just invited you to his office for a chat. But this is serious, portentous conversation, horribly reminiscent – and frighteningly still relevant." Full Review

Ladue News

for a previous production "Johnson delivers a moving and memorable performance in this sobering tale about the ‘red scare’ era of Senator Joseph McCarthy in an astounding one-man performance with a script that is all too uncomfortably contemporary...Ellenstein matches the sizzling writing with a production that beautifully builds tension in disarmingly subtle fashion...What’s most impressive is Johnson’s emotionally compelling performance." Full Review


for a previous production "This is an excellent examination of how quickly a career could fly off the rails during that period, and here, taking place in a single afternoon. It's powerful and relevant material, laced with great helpings of humor, and thoroughly deserving of a hearty recommendation...Ellenstein's direction is smoothly worked out so that there's never a static moment...There's a nature flow of movement within this animated and frustrating writer we're witnessing in his direst hour." Full Review

Times of San Diego

for a previous production "This is the third incarnation of the play I’ve seen over the several years of its development. It just keeps getting stronger and deeper. And Johnson’s virtuosic solo performance just keeps getting better...With its mix of goofball humor and deadly serious subjects, the play could be difficult to navigate. But David Ellenstein’s direction is beautifully nuanced. As the frenzy and intensity build to a crashing crescendo, he wisely inserts pauses and quiet moments." Full Review

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

for a previous production " Johnson brings Bernie to such vivid life, you think he must know him inside-out. He probably does; Johnson co-wrote the 90-minute play with Marni Freedman...Directed by David Ellerstein, 'A Jewish Joke' frames a national crisis in personal terms, boiling down McCarthyism to the choices forced on one man...Johnson’s thoroughgoing performance is big enough to make the play’s case...Johnson brings Bernie to life psychologically as well as physically." Full Review

San Diego CityBeat

for a previous production "'A Jewish Joke' succeeds largely due to Johnson’s anguished portrayal of a mensch who’s fought for every little victory in life and done so with no more than his punch lines and an unflagging refusal to quit...He somehow manages to wring laughs, mostly from the obvious one-liners that Bernie resorts to as he feels his world slipping away." Full Review

San Diego Story

for a previous production "Johnson is spot-on...After the initial mention, the script virtually abandons hard history, content to fuel Johnson’s performance. Johnson is outstanding as he adapts to each layer of Bernie’s descent; but without factual foundation, Bernie becomes far less sympathetic...Johnson and Ellenstein are true professionals and illustrate an according level of care. But scriptural oversights don’t repair on their own; in fact, against Johnson’s excellence, they tend to become more apparent." Full Review

Delightful, Great acting, Funny, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if If you are interested in the history of your parents, and if you want to travel back in time to see what devices they had growing up

Don't see it if If you don't like history or stories about history.

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great acting, Dated, Absorbing

See it if you like great acting and period dramedys--once Johnson gets you, he gets you. Oh, and if you like classic Jewish jokes.

Don't see it if you like a lot of spectacle or you are expecting a stand-up comedian.

Great writing, Great acting, Entertaining, Enchanting, Absorbing

See it if You enjoy thoughtful heart felt political commentary that is still relevant.

Don't see it if You aren’t interested in one man shows.

Ambitious, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if The subject of Hollywood blacklisting interests you. Absorbing subject. You appreciate a one-man tour-de-force.

Don't see it if You do not like one man shows with simple setting. Might be confusing if you know nothing about the blacklist and “Red Channels”

Intense, Clever, Ambitious

See it if you like one person shows, and stories about blacklisting

Don't see it if you don't like one person shows, or you like your shows short. This one's long for a solo show, over 90 mins.

Thought-provoking, Dated, Ambitious, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if you like solo performances dealing with the black list era of the 1950's. If you know nothing about the era, it might be hard to follow.

Don't see it if you do not like solo shows.

Meandering, Thought-provoking, Slow, Ambitious

See it if enjoy one-man, one act plays, curious about the Hollywood blacklist, learn how writing partners work, feel for movie business in the 50's

Don't see it if don't like one person plays, want a play that delves really deeply into the Blacklist, don't like plays where most action occurs over phone

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You enjoy one actor plays that are well written, sometimes humorous & enjoy old Jewish humor.

Don't see it if You can’t sit for 90 minutes without an intermission or are bored by no set changes for an entire play.

Also The play is 90 minutes with no intermission. Seats weren’t particularl... Read more Read less

Quirky, Great acting, Ambitious

See it if You generally enjoy one person show. It's hard to pull it off although I have been to many good ones...I would think it was a bit too long🤔

Don't see it if You are tired and very sleepy or not feeling well.😷

Overly earnest, Intelligent, Meaningful

See it if you want to see censorship in action as it was practiced during the McCarthy era, competently told through the perspective of one writer.

Don't see it if you are turned off to one-man shows, schmaltzy Jewish humor, or the ramifications of political interference on creativity.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Slow in spots, Great acting, Quirky

See it if A thoughtful depiction of a scary period in our history that we have much to learn from. Some very funny old jokes.

Don't see it if One man show that can be slow with annoying use of the telephone.

Very interesting story

See it if You’re interested in history about the blacklist in Hollywood

Don't see it if You don’t like one man shows

Slow, Overrated, Disappointing

See it if You are interested in un-American communists in Hollywood in the 1959’s and don’t mind someone constantly on the phone.

Don't see it if You like a good comedy or good drama.

Relevant, Great acting, Ambitious, Clever, Absorbing

See it if Terrific actor takes on a dark time in history - absorbing and moving performance. Eerily relevant to today’s political landscape.

Don't see it if If you just can’t stand one-man shows!

During previews
Riveting, Enchanting, Delightful, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You love a good story and outstanding acting

Don't see it if No such thing. See it

During previews
Relevant, Intelligent, Great acting, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy a show about blacklisting during the McCarthy era, lightened up with some Jewish humor.

Don't see it if don't enjoy one-man shows, Jewish humor, historical stories

Also A well-acted one-man show. He did a tremendous job of carrying the sto... Read more Read less

During previews
Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Great writing, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You like plays that take you to unexpected places and challenges both the character in the play and audience to make the right choices

Don't see it if You want a funny play. The joke is not really a joke but a deep look at a difficult time in our country

During previews
Worth seeing, Not that funny, Not the story you are expecting

See it if Yes about the blacklist but it's just alluded to. This is a moral tale for our (or any) time. What will you do to keep a job? friend?

Don't see it if You don't want a moral challenge. You don't want to have to think You don't like 1 person shows You can't forgive bad jokes I knew every 1!

During previews
Funny, Cliched, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You like relevant political drama that also makes you laugh. Reminds you that the times we live in are frighteningly close to history.

Don't see it if You’re anti-Semitic or dislike one person shows.

Also This was really well done though the point was a bit forced.

During previews
Thought-provoking, Relevant, Funny

See it if you enjoy political plots presented from a personal point of view & are interested in the McCarthy era and the Jewish or artistic experience

Don't see it if you are looking for a comedy or do not enjoy political plots, specifically about the McCarthy era. or you so not like one-man shows.

During previews
Quirky, Relevant, Similar to today’s blackballing behavior, Nicely performed, Intense

See it if you want to see a brave guy act his heart out for 90 mins, which is tough. There were some ba-dum-bump jokes.

Don't see it if you don’t like intimate theater experiences & you’re too critical of small productions.

Also Johnson was energetic & put his heart into the show. I call him brave ... Read more Read less

During previews
Resonant, Good acting, Disappointing, Relevant

See it if Actor works hard to carry the one man show. The emotions &dilemmas of McCarthy era come across &issues of discrimination are relevant today.

Don't see it if The incessant phone ringing and use of the one sided phone call and old jokes are distracting.

During previews
Resonant, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Slow, Disappointing

See it if Johnson (the actor) gives us blood, sweat & tears as 1950's comedy writer swept into Blacklist fever Performace is the catalyst of the drama

Don't see it if Johnson (the writer) does himself no favors with the static concept of "phone drama" Kills pace/often confuses Neat use of Yiddish humor tho

During previews
Some funny jokes, To long, Slow, Quirky

See it if One man show, he take you through a time in Hollywood that the government was blacklist people.

Don't see it if Some of the joke are quirky, and it is long to me.

Also A telephone ring in the show and after he tells a joke. My favorite is... Read more Read less

During previews
Writing better than acting, Needs editing, Interesting presentation of important topic

See it if One man piece about Hollywood black-listing interspersed with sweet if old jokes.

Don't see it if Rare for NYC, the material is better than the actor. This play deserves another production with a more nuanced portrayal.

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Playbill Club

Direct from the Box Office

Typical fees: $8 - $15 per ticket. Can usually choose your own seats. You can save on fees by buying at the physical box office.
$37 - $47

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Typical fees: $8 - $15 per ticket. You can usually choose your own seats. Check the terms carefully, since seats can be very limited by date or section. Usually requires a lot of poking around. Sometimes the same offer is available direct from the box office.
through 3/31


$29.75 Select Orchestra


Not available for Premium seating. Limit 10 per customer.

Playbill Club
through 3/24


Not valid on premium seating. Limit 10 per customer. Good for performances through 3/24.

through 3/31


Not available for premium seating. Limit 10 per customer. 

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$20 - $25