Independent Lens: The Last Laugh
Monday, April 24, at 10pm on CET
Offering fresh insights into the Holocaust, Independent Lens: The Last Last 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.”