The title is a phrase the late great Henny Youngman repeated during his act, like a mantra. In his way of saying it he often sounded both surprised and thrilled....as if being well received was totally new experience.
Anyway. Creative Time offered a few artists and musicians the opportunity to place audio pieces in the Winter Garden atrium, which looks out onto Ground Zero in NYC. This installation opened more or less at the same time the Wintergarden/World Financial Center itself reopened—October 2002.
For many of the people who work in the buildings their last memories of this space were traumatic and horrific, so the idea was to welcome them back to NY, downtown NY. (It would also become a viewing platform for out of town visitors, so in some ways it would be their welcome to NY, too.)
With all that in mind I thought what better to cheer people up an represent NY than borscht belt comedy? It’s quintessential NY humor—fast, witty, Jewish and smart. Like it or not, this sometimes tasteless comedy has spread throughout the world, mutating and evolving as it goes.
So, for an installation I made a 6-track audio piece in which one-liners would come at you at random from speakers hidden in the bases of the palm trees in the atrium. There are benches by the trees where people often eat their lunches. Sometimes one speaker would emit a Phyllis Diller wisecrack, and then silence, while a Henny Youngman one-liner issued from a distant speaker. Jokes about mothers-in-law, bosses, husbands, wives, insults and slander towards one’s own and other ethnic groups.