I’ve got two good dirty jokes. Jokes I have nurtured and refined over the years that are showstoppers at any party.
Sophie Tucker, the ballsy cabaret singer of the 1940s, would have made a monkey out of me.
A favorite line from Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red Hot Mamas is when Tucker (played by Kathy Halenda) says her “ideal man can breathe through his ears.” And then there’s the line where she tells neglected wives not to worry, “That’s what God created sailors for.”
I’ll save the really good jokes for the show, but they’ve certainly put a few more quivers in my dirty joke bag.
Having seen several of these one-act diva memorials over the past few years at Piccolo, Sophie Tucker has figured out the formula in a way that some others missed. There’s the obligatory life story moments, but they’re brief and usually head right into another classic tune — after all, that is what the people are there for.
Halenda never quite reaches a transformational moment, where you feel like you’re looking at the real Tucker, but Halenda is wildly entertaining and offers every bit of Tucker’s excess to great laughter and applause.
But there’s this nagging feeling that you’re watching a show in the local senior center. It may have been the older crowd that likely grew up watching Tucker (though, to be fair, that’s the crowd that these shows target).
For the last few numbers, the crowd starts singing along to every word. But for those too young to remember the numbers, the moment is kind of like how you feel at hockey games when they play “Oh, Canada.”
All you’re left to do is wonder how they’re going to pull off our generation’s Britney Spears tribute in 50 years. I can promise you that it will be a pale comparison to the rich, hilarious material of Sophie Tucker, even if you can’t sing along. —Greg Hambrick