Polish Joke by David Ives

Polish Joke is an outrageous, funny and touching look at how we are often weighed down with a learned but imaginary case of self-loathing. Embracing ourselves fully, and not taking ourselves so seriously, is the cure to making a life worth living. The Illinois Valley has many citizens of Polish (and other Eastern European) descent who, if they saw past some of the language, would highly identify with the show’s themes and cultural references. Anyone who feels both bound and cursed by their cultural heritage should be entertained and moved by this play.

When you read this play, think, “Is it funny? Is it true?” Please avoid thinking, “Will the Polish-American Social Club pull its funding for the theatre?” It will be easier for potential audience members than for scrutinizing readers to see beyond a priest using the f-bomb about nuns, or a doctor testing if a woman wearing the Polish flag gives the lead character an erection.  There is an instance where the lead character discovers that he has lost his vocation. His sense of loss is beautifully written, and the discovery is punctuated by expletives. The language comes from his anger and sadness, not the opportunity to elicit laughter. The playwright’s craft is far more sophisticated in Joke than Don Juan; the payoff, more nuanced.

So little scenery makes for cheap production costs and helps the actors and director focus more on story-telling. This play is risky, but worth a shot for the brave.



  • “Fuck”: Up to 12 times throughout:
    • The word is isolated to 3 out of 13 scenes
    • A priest describes a nun’s practical joke, “They’ll fuck us all, the nuns.”
    • “feckin’” is used a few times in an Irish-themed scene.
  • “Tits”: Used once to ask which color is the top on the nurse’s teddy.
  • “Masturbating” : Used to report the commission of same
  • In an Irish brogue: “As stout and as hard as the paynis on a championship racehorse at studtime.”/ ”Aye. Aye. A stout hard paynis, begosh.”

Scenery: The trap-door for the miner mentioned above


  • Old world Polish, 2 male, 2 female
  • Stereotypical Irish: 2 female, 1 male
  • Much use of Polish (phonetically spelled in text, but must be practiced and perfect)

Running time: 2 hours, plus one 15-minute intermission (http://www.curtainup.com/polishjoke.html)

Fee: $80 per performance


Available for lending from UIC Library, Chicago, IL

polish joke cover


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