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Jewish Girls, Gone Wild

Traveling burlesque/comedy show hits The Birchmere.

If performing a show under the banner of “Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad” less than 48 hours before Christmas Day seems delightfully contrarian, that’s because Susannah Perlman’s strange relationship with the Christian holy day goes back to days as a nice Jewish girl.

“I had a mother who, although she’d hate to admit to it, just loves Christmas,” said Perlman, who as “The Goddess Perlman” is the “comedian, chanteuse and ringleader” of the traveling burlesque /comedy troupe. “We’d have Christmas music piped through the house, we’d have everything but the tree, we’d have these WASP-y friends and we’d go over their houses and take pictures in front of the tree. My brother’s a rabbi now, so it’s pretty hilarious.”

“Hilarious” is what The Boston Globe called a previous incarnation of “Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad,” which began about four years ago and has played to sold out audiences around the country. Perlman said their upcoming show at The Birchmere on Saturday, Dec. 23, is a revamped edition, featuring fresh comedy and new takes on old Jewish topics and entertainment. The crew includes comedians Rachel Feinstein, Ophira Eisenberg, Hillary Schwarts — the daughter of D.C. councilwoman Carol Schwartz — as well as special guest Scotty the Blue Bunny, the Burlesque all-stars and their house band, The Jew Boys.

Despite routines that poke fun at old Hebrew hymns and explore the origins of Gefilte fish, Perlman said the show is accessible for everyone and not just “Members of the Tribe.”

“Our audiences are not always Jewish. I feel like anyone can walk into our show and enjoy it,” she said.

THIS SHOW features some updated set pieces, including a techno music remix of Barbara Streisand’s recent on-stage tirade against a heckler and a segment in which the performers morph into their mothers during a song. “I want it to be something that looks back and looks forward at the Jewish experience in America,” said Perlman.

The show’s “ringleader” began as a stand-up comedian, influenced by the likes of Lily Tomlin and Bill Cosby. She worked with a few burlesque-style shows, and wondered what it would be like to put a “Jewish spin” on the formula. She put together a group of performers and started to craft a show featuring “gals who learned to smoke at Hebrew School, got drunk at their Bat-Mitzvahs and would rather have more schtuppa than the chupah.”

“At first we had sort of a set cast; now I have about 30 women who rotate in and out,” she said.

The show tackles some classic sources of humor, from Yiddish to the Catskills to the ever-present Jewish guilt.

What is it that makes Jews intrinsically funny? “Either we see ourselves outsiders, or we make ourselves the outsiders,” said Perlman.

Of course, it’s easy to feel like an outsider around Dec. 25, even in a world where Perlman believes there is a palpable “war on Christmas,” the kind popularized by the talking heads on the Fox News Channel.

“I feel like kids are a little gypped now. I really want to know who’s behind this — where it says you can’t sing Christmas carols. I’m starting to think there’s a war on Christmas,” she said.

Who knows: maybe, in his heart, Bill O’Reilly is just a nice Jewish girl gone bad.