Rothman is spending his golden years, microphone in hand, spreading laughter among service organizations and nonprofits as part of the comedy trio Baby Boomers Plus.
Always wearing his trademark cap, Rothman pokes fun at the indignities of old age: “I didn’t lose my sex drive, I lost my equipment!” “Senior citizens. People say they don’t know how to drive. You think it’s so easy to maneuver a car on the sidewalk?”
Retired since the mid-1990s, Rothman started doing stand-up after his kids gave him a gift certificate for a comedy class for his 75th birthday. He later joined actress Carole Gordon and entrepreneur Wes Martens, and the trio got gigs at the Improv and Ice House. Turned off by the raunch that passes for comedy in nightclubs these days, they now perform for public-service groups in exchange for a small fee to cover expenses. This new direction is a good fit for Rothman, who taught community service for many years in what is now the School of Public Affairs.
Do-gooders from groups like the American Red Cross get a kick out of the trio’s routine, but Rothman’s most appreciative audience remains his wife, Judy, who is still laughing at his jokes after 52 years of marriage.
“She’ll crack up and say, ‘Write that down! Write that down!’ ”
Most recently Jack received a lifetime achievement award, and most
recently was featured on several networks, Time Magazine and Los Angeles Times.
he National Association of Social Workers (NASW), California Chapter, handed 80-year old distinguished retired professor Jack Rothman its highest honor: “Lifetime Achievement Award.” The award was given to Rothman this week (May 7, 2007) at the San Francisco NASW awards luncheon.
Most people in their 80’s usually take it easy and don’t start second careers.
But if you’re Jack Rothman, you’ve just celebrated your 80th birthday on your feet, winning a stand-up comedy contest at the famous Ice House club in Pasadena. He took first place, last January in the Uncle Clyde competition, downing nine other contenders, all of them young enough to be his grandchildren. This victory gains him a place in the year-end Grand Finals this November at the Ice House main room. Winning an award in comedy and social service doesn’t faze this senior on the move. Quips Rothman, “I guess I carry water on both knees.”
Rothman has conducted social research in several areas of human services such as, mental health, race relations, runaway and homeless youth. Although he retired from UCLA 10 years ago, he continues to contribute to the profession through consultation, guest lecturing and publications. But for his real passion he helps community organizations and volunteers rediscover the joy in civic engagement with his humor.
"Somebody has to replace George Burns, who went on doing great stand-up until he was 100 years old. Me, I'm only 80, so I'm looking out at a long career."
Rothman, who has written 25 books and was a pioneer in his field of community development, was nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award by Sherrill Clark, a licensed clinical social worker, Academy of Certified Social Workers, PhD, Region “A” director, National Association of Social Workers; research specialist, California Social Work Education Center.
“Jack’s broad professional social work experience and demonstrated leadership in bringing university researchers and agencies together to evaluate and improve practices in humane and socially just ways,” said Clark. “Research and evaluation can be daunting for social agencies. There is a trend to see ‘the numbers’ as ends and to lose sight of the people involved.”
In her nomination Clark also said, “Jack’s conception of intervention research, involving good social work skills, involvement of the users and consumers, and core ethics merits a lifetime recognition award. He has a unique ability to see across methods and disciplines and to bring the synthesis to light for his students and for practitioners and because of that we can celebrate him as worthy of a lifetime achievement.”
Rothman’s dramatic shift from an academic icon to a comedy star has raised eyebrows. He takes it philosophically. He says that both professors and comics have a lot in common. They are both standing up there in front facing a skeptical crowd. But there is also a difference. The comic worries that his crowd won’t start laughing. The professor worries that his crowd won’t stop laughing.
Recently profiled in Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine two years before that, Rothman wants to help citizens and volunteers across America add new life to their jobs and organizations. He believes laughter is the right medicine.
“I want to bring comedy to grassroots organizations--civic and service groups,” said Rothman. “My aim is to enliven their meetings and activities and to help them with their needs, like membership retention, adding spirit to board meeting, brightening volunteer recognition nights, and the like.” He should know, because Rothman’s teaching and writing career dealt with improving community life--community organizing.
To keep up with Rothman’s activities, schedules and appearances visit Rothmans’s blog at http://JackRothman.blogspot.com.