Marion Grodin says comedy is in her blood. It runs deep, back generations.
Her father, actor Charles Grodin, makes a living being funny. Her late mother, a former actress, was “hilarious in a non-Jewish way.” Her paternal grandmother: a cut-up. And her paternal grandfather, a rabbi and Russian immigrant, had a keen sense of humor. “He was a Talmudic scholar who told funny stories from the Torah,” she says.
“So I have had a lot of laughter in my life,” says Grodin, a writer and stand-up comic who has a book coming out in November: “Standing Up, A Memoir of a Funny (Not Always) Life.”
“It wasn’t all laughs. I also have had challenges, big highs and big lows, but I know laughter helps you cope,” says Grodin, a self-described survivor of breast cancer, divorce, battles with her weight and various addictions, including a lasting one to Haagen Dazs.
The 52-year-old New Jersey-based comic is coming to Tampa for a 7:30 p.m. performance tonight as part of the Tampa Jewish Book Festival. She will be entertaining at the Carrollwood Cultural Center on Lowell Road.
Grodin kicks off the four-day festival which features several authors, including Marcia Jo Jerivitz, who has complied “Jews of Tampa,” with co-author Rob Norman, a look at 100 families here. Jerivitz will be at the closing event at 2 p.m. Sunday at Inkwood Books on Armenia Avenue.
Grodin, who performs at a lot of Jewish centers in South Florida, says she has become the comic relief on Jewish book and film tours. “I’m in there telling jokes between people who have written some serious and scholarly works,” she says.
The Tampa festival, for example, also features Rabbi Mark Glickman, author of “Sacred Treasure, The Cairo Genizah: The Amazing Discoveries of Forgotten Jewish History in an Egyptian Synagogue Attic”; and Mindy Budgor, author of “Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior.”
Grodin says most people are familiar with her father’s work in films such as “Midnight Run,” “The Heartbreak Kid,” “The Lonely Guy” and those “Beethoven” comedies.
She describes her parents as a couple of odd eccentrics who met in Pittsburgh more than 50 years ago and then headed to New York to carve out careers in show business. But their marriage ended when she was a child. Her father became a star and her mother, Julie Ferguson, stayed in New York and raised Grodin. Ferguson’s death of a brain tumor in 1987 was a heartbreaking loss for Grodin.
She says her father has always been supportive. He used to take her on the sets of movies. He nicknamed her “The Mouth.” Now 78, Charles Grodin does political and social commentary on CBS radio.
Marion got her start in comedy writing for the television sitcom “It’s a Living” and working on screenplays in the 1980s. For the past decade, she has been performing stand-up and is a recurring headliner at Standup NY and Gotham Comedy Club. She’s opened for Lewis Black and Robert Klein and toured with many other top comics. She will be traveling the country at Jewish book tours through December, including stops in Jacksonville and Palm Beach.
For more, go to www .Jewishtampa.com. The festival is presented by the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation.