Perspectives

The Last Laugh | INDEPENDENT LENS | April 24 at 10


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The Last Laugh Premieres on Independent Lens Monday, April 24, 2017 on WOUB

Online Streaming Begins April 25

Can We Make Jokes About the Holocaust?
Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, Rob Reiner, David Steinberg and Others Weigh In

(San Francisco, CA) — The Last Laugh is a documentary based on the premise that the Holocaust would seem to be an absolutely off-limits topic for comedy. But is it? History shows that even victims of Nazi concentration camps used humor as a means of survival and resistance. Still, any use of comedy in connection with this horror risks diminishing the suffering of millions. So where is the line? If the Holocaust is taboo, what are the implications for other controversial subjects — 9/11, AIDS, racism — in a society that prizes freedom of speech? Directed by Ferne Pearlstein, The Last Laugh premieres on Independent Lens Monday, April 24, 2017, 10:00-11:30 PM on WOUB.

the_last_laugh-press-02Offering fresh insights into the Holocaust, the film weaves an intimate cinema verité portrait of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone alongside interviews with influential comedians and thinkers ranging from Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, and Gilbert Gottfried to authors Etgar Keret, Shalom Auslander, and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. The film also includes rare archival footage of cabarets inside the concentration camps, as well as clips ranging from The Producers to Curb Your Enthusiasm, video of performances from comics Louis CK, George Carlin, and Chris Rock, and newly discovered footage of Jerry Lewis’s never-released Holocaust comedy The Day the Clown Cried.

Mel Brooks has made a career out of making fun of Nazis, calling it “revenge through ridicule.” Yet the Holocaust itself is a subject he won’t touch. Not so for Sarah Silverman or Judy Gold or the late Joan Rivers. From Hogan’s Heroes to Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi,” mainstream pop culture has pushed the envelope of what is considered acceptable. As Rob Reiner notes: “The Holocaust itself is not funny. There’s nothing funny about it. But survival, and what it takes to survive, there can be humor in that.”

Visit The Last Laugh page on Independent Lens, which features more information about the film. The Last Laugh complete film will be available for online viewing on the site beginning April 25, 2017.