Comedians in Saturday night’s performance of “Catskills on Broadway” in San Francisco were faced with the half-filled Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center on opening weekend.
They didn’t seem too concerned. Host/co-headliner Freddie Roman told the “crowd”: “If I don’t do good, who’s gonna know?”
But when he said the show has been a hit in New York and on tour — “everywhere until here” — it wasn’t too hard to believe him. The amiable 90-minute show pretty much delivers the promise of its title, serving up the familiar Jewish humor reminiscent of the Borscht Belt, although with some updated themes. For example, each comic on the bill had his share of Viagra jokes.
The 70-year-old Roman, who created the show, is joined by Dick Capri (Italian, not Jewish) and deep-voiced Mal Z. Lawrence, who has appeared in movies and in musical theater. Pianist Billy Philadelphia provides nice, if minimal, musical accompaniment.
The fellas’ material is not unlike that of Steve Solomon, who also opened in San Francisco last week with his one-man show “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy!” At least one of the old-people jokes (“I’m the only one here with original hips”) appeared in both shows.
None of the material will win any awards for innovation, but it’s often funny.
Roman spends time riffing on seniors in Florida (“The state bird is the early bird”), while Capri jabs at both Jews and his own Italian heritage: “Waiter to the Jewish woman: Is anything all right?” and, “Italian Alzheimer’s is where you forget everything except the grudge.”
Lawrence’s best stuff centers on visits to the actual Catskills resorts and their counterparts, particularly the focus on eating there. He talks about women stealing the mini Danish pastries “for later,” but having a little trouble because their purses already are filled with rolls. Hesays he’s not worried about robbers stealing anything from his house while he’s on vacation, because his wife packed everything and brought it with them on the trip.
Closing out the gig, Roman asked the audience to tell their friends about the show, and left them with this appropriately Jewish farewell: “May all your pain come from laughter.”
Catskills on Broadway
Where: Jewish Community Center, 3200 California St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Contact: (415) 292-1233 or www.jccsf.org