“The Last Laugh” Examines Humor in Light of the Holocaust

Genre: Humorous documentary
Director: Ferne Pearlstein
Actors: Interview subjects Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Rob Reiner, Gilbert Gottfried, et. al.
85 minutes

Can the Holocaust be funny? Is “Springtime for Hitler” jn bad taste, and, if it is, should we not have laughed at it in the context of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers”?

THE GOOD

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  Director Ferne Pearlstein

It’s a great concept. At times, the documentary is funny and witty. It discusses decades of humor on the most taboo of topics, interviewing well-known comics like Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, Rob Reiner and others. The comics interviewed discuss why and how they joke about subjects like the genocide of the Jews.

Meanwhile, Holocaust survivors and Jewish community leaders are shown trying to decide whether it is okay to laugh or whether they should draw some sort of line about tasteless humor.

THE BAD

The pacing made the 85 minutes seem like 185 minutes.

The elderly Holocaust survivor who passed judgment on certain sketches and routines didn’t seem to be any sort of authority the audience should really look to for guidance on the film’s central issue of whether this was funny or not. She was a survivor of the camps; does that make her the Mel Brooks or Sarah Silverman of the Holocaust?

To paraphrase a much better (and more famous) writer: “To laugh or not to laugh, that is the question.” Or should be. The combining of the white-haired Holocaust survivor’s optimistic attitude towards survival with the subject of what is taboo in humor seemed, to me, like shoe-horning 2 documentaries into one. A great idea gone awry.

 

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  • 9/10
    Acting - 9/10
  • 5/10
    Cinematography - 5/10
  • 4/10
    Plot/Screenplay - 4/10
  • 4/10
    Setting/Theme - 4/10
  • 2/10
    Buyability - 2/10
  • 2/10
    Recyclability - 2/10
4.3/10
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About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books (31 at last count) in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.