The Play

A Jewish Joke - A Drama About Comedy

A Drama about Comedy

In 1950’s Hollywood, at the height of the Communist Blacklist, when careers were ruined by a whisper, we meet irascible comedy screenwriter Bernie Lutz. Funny and lovable, Bernie has made his way up the ladder by being a spineless Hollywood sellout. Now, the night before a big red carpet premiere that will make Bernie’s career, he has been asked to name names and give up his friend. He has one day to decide if he will accede to government demands and save his skin, or protect his friend and save his soul in the most serious decision of his life. One man’s journey through a historical reality as well as into the depths of his own soul is the heart of this multi-layered, compelling, and relevant play.

A solo tour de force…

powerfully performed by Johnson and forcefully co-written by him and Marni Freedman..’ One actor — the telephone doesn’t belong to the union — and a very simple set makes it a great prospect for off-Broadway. Producers, take note.

The Huffington Post
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A Jewish Joke Off Broadway

The Critics Have Spoken!

  • Excellent… It’s powerful and relevant material, laced with great helpings of humor, and thoroughly deserving of a hearty recommendation. Splendid work. Hilarious and heart-breaking. David Ellenstein’s direction is smoothly worked out so that there’s never a static moment. Just as important today as it was then.

  • Phil Johnson delivers a moving and memorable performance … in an astounding one-man performance with a script that is all too uncomfortably contemporary. Delivers a tour de force performance Director David Ellenstein matches the sizzling writing with a production that beautifully builds tension. What’s most impressive is Johnson’s emotionally compelling performance. He moves Bernie from a glib huckster who shills cheap jokes with abandon to a desperate man clinging to his life and his livelihood. A Jewish Joke is both humorous and harrowing. Johnson powerfully displays the good, the bad and the ugly…

    Ladue News, STL
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  • A brilliant one-man show starring Phil Johnson, who co-wrote the script with Marni Freedman, follows the meteoric rise and stunning, sudden fall of a top comedy writer the timing and irony of the best of the Jewish stand-up comics with the virtuoso skills of a show business wheeler-dealer. A bravura performance…..“A Jewish Joke” brilliantly proves that the blacklist was no laughing matter.

    St. Louis Jewish Light
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  • A solo tour de force powerfully performed by Johnson and forcefully co-written by him and Marni Freedman..’ One actor — the telephone doesn’t belong to the union — and a very simple set makes it a great prospect for off-Broadway. Producers, take note.

    The Huffington Post
    Read the Entire Review
  • In New Jewish Theatre’s production, Phil Johnson brings Bernie to such vivid life, you think he must know him inside-out. Quintessentially A Jewish Joke — jokes about standing up to life when you can, taking it when you can’t.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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  • Johnson is a sensational performer, able to portray a range of emotions that shake your foundations like a seismic event.’ ‘I give it full houses, standing ovations, and a thunderous applause. This impressive production needs a lengthy run in NYC.

    NY Theatre Guide
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  • A Mighty Good Mensch

    There is a mastery in Johnson’s multi-leveled performance, every drip of sweat, every gesture, every micro-expression of his face is felt beyond the doors of the theater..

  • Turns lemons into lemonade…

    Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries as Phil Johnson successfully reveals in his one man show “Jewish Jokes.” But as fast as one can flip a coin Johnson’s humor, based on his growing up and hearing Jewish Jokes, turns lemons into lemonade. A crowd-pleasing show.

    Diana Saenger
    Saenger Syndicate
  • Strikingly relevant…

    Phil Johnson is theatre magic. JEWISH JOKES is a hilarious joy ride through an obsessively comic mind, while examining a dark chapter of American history that feels strikingly relevant right now. While it is deliriously funny, it’s heart and insight are no joke.

    Matt Morrow
    Artistic Director, Diversionary Theatre
  • Recommendation

    Phil Johnson is an outstanding performer whose extraordinary work has taken him from Broadway to Los Angeles and to San Diego.

    Phil is a man of many talents. As a multifaceted actor, comic, singer and playwright, he is well known and is highly respected by the Jewish community in San Diego. Phil always presents a well-written, exciting and emotional show. He never disappoints. He takes the audience through hilarious artistic adventures and I look forward to seeing him every time I have the opportunity.

    Undeniably reliable and the ultimate professional, Phil always does a fantastic job. His performances are a MUST SEE!!!

    Michael Cohen
    Executive Director, Lawrence Family Jewish Center (San Diego, CA)