My mom came from an Orthodox Jewish family and my dad’s family was simply Jewish. As kids growing up, we still had a Christmas tree and we would put the Star of David on the top. My mom felt she didn’t get to enjoy the Christmas celebrations and what appeared to be the fun her friends were having, so my sister and I got to dabble in what my mom always thought she was missing.
We used to go to Hebrew school and I was going to be bat mitzvah’d, but then the auditions and dance classes my mom would take me to started to be more important than learning the Torah. I had NO issue with that. We used to go to temple, and we used to do light the menorah. My last name was Brockstein. Folks, it doesn’t get more Jewish than that. (Wells was made-up. A “stage name.” My Dad was a fan of the country singer Kitty Wells, and that’s how I went from Brockstein to Wells.) One of my favorite first memories happened at our temple.
The first time I made an audience laugh was at my sister’s baby-naming ceremony. I was 4. The synagogue was full and it felt like an eternity until it was our turn to go up on stage and a man in a robe would say something about how cute my sister was and we could finally leave.
When we got to the center of the stage, all I could see were these bright lights. I couldn’t see the people. I knew they were there, I’d been in the audience for like 18 hours before our rabbi called us up there, but now, all I could see were bright lights in my face.
The rabbi said something and then my mom and dad said something, then the Rabbi took his microphone and leaned down to ask me, “What do you think about having a sister and this big celebration?” He had the thickest beard I had ever seen and old-man breath. I paused, reached my hand to the mike and said, “I’m hungry.”
All I could hear was a sea of laughter. No faces, just lights and laughter. The bug had bitten me right then and there.
I could feel the embarrassment from my mom and dad and the “I’m soon gonna get it” feeling from them, but something about that laughter and having control of that moment in time is what started it all. I think it’s what prompts me to strive to say something funny in the most awkward of times. I just want to make the bored people laugh.