‘Late Night’ Laughter

Katherine Mottola

Thought you were finished with your Catholic school days – knee highs and plaid skirts, heavy pants and cotton shirts? Well, “Late Night Catechism” whisks you back to a time where it was absolutely imperative to sit-up straight, spit out that gum and say a prayer. Brushing up on your Catholic education is much more pleasurable this time around (no rulers or bruised knuckles), as Sister revisits the strict customs and undying traditions of our religious background. While most of the audience has the benefit of hindsight, this clever satire can educate even those who went to public school. This hilarious comedy show / catechism class can relate to both the young and old, bringing back fond memories (no groaning!), as it gently pokes fun at the intricacies of the Catholic faith.

Sister (yes, it’s just Sister), played by Kathleen Cogan, has brought her one-woman show to the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City. However, the show is well known all over the country. I was lucky enough to catch it in Cleveland, where it brings equal amounts of laughs. She began by calling her new “Late Night Catechism” class into session by calling out, “Good morning class!” Our response, however, was somewhat less enthusiastic. So she called again, and we obliged by screaming “Good morning Sister!” She smiled and said, “Not too bright here in Cleveland, are we?” This brought about the first guffaw paving the way for many more.

The set is a classroom with a blackboard, teacher’s desk, bulletin board and of course, a crucifix. Not too much to work with, but I forgot to mention one small detail: class participation. Sister used the audience as her main tool of comedic delight. She gently admonished anyone who bickered during “class time,” referring to them as the kids who “must have gone to public school.” She asked questions such as, “What is the Immaculate Conception?” and “Please define Easter duty.” One member of the audience named Mike, who had attended a parochial school, was bold enough to raise his hand and attempt an answer. Sister called on Mike and he began to explain Easter duty. However, she promptly interrupted him, saying, “Didn’t they teach you to stand when talking to a Sister?” So Mike stood and unsuccessfully tried to continue, not being able to hurdle the ever-challenging eye and incessantly hilarious interruptions of Sister.

At one point, Sister called on a woman who stood up and said her name was Jamie. Sister glared down reprovingly saying, “Is that a Christian name? I don’t remember there ever being a Saint Jamie.” As the laughter subdued, Jamie tried to identify and define the holy days. When she started struggling with some dates and meshing together the facts, Sister chimed in, “Would you like to phone a friend?”

She continued amid laughs saying, “OK, Jamie needs a lifeline folks.” This sarcastic humor keeps “Catechism” a favorite among critics and audiences alike, as many more people fall victim to the jests in the 85-minute show.

This is the gospel according to Sister: “They never should have done away with Latin Mass. Having the priest face the congregation and speak in English makes it like a cooking show.

“Nothing heals stigmata. Not even Neosporin.”

“The ‘publics’ are people who go to public school. They only go because their parents don’t love them enough to send them to Catholic school.

“St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. How they all ended up politicians, I don’t know.”

“Know how to make holy water? Just boil the Hell out of it.”

At the conclusion of the show, Sister had a question and answer session in which she did great improvisation. Cogan was able to dig as far back as pagan babies, and even tried to explain the notion of burying St. Joseph upside down in your backyard if you want to sell your house.

“Late Night Catechism” is being shown Wednesday through Sunday until Sept. 28 at Resorts Atlantic City. I strongly recommend seeing it, if not for the memories, than surely for the mockeries.