Finding the Holocaust Funny: “The Last Laugh” – Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Review (3 of 5 Stars)

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by Christina Nicole, Senior Editor

The Holocaust is not funny. The systematic murder of 6 million Jews is not funny. The immense suffering prisoners in Auschwitz and other concentration camps faced is not funny. There is nothing funny about it, but Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, and Rob Reiner are hilarious.

The Last Laugh follows a Holocaust survivor, who meets up with other survivors to discuss their experiences in the concentration camps and life after the Shoah. For the most part, the survivors say that their sense of humor helped keep them alive during the Holocaust. The Holocaust still haunts the survivors, but they actively choose not to let the past ruin their present.

The comedians interviewed in The Last Laugh are some of the best available. The subject matter however, doesn’t easily lend itself to comedy. The comedians discuss the role of comedy in life and how it is a tool of the disenfranchised and weak. It’s okay to make fun of the oppressor; but oppression is not funny.

Mel Brooks made The Producers, which is about a terrible Broadway play called Springtime for Hitler. Mel has made many jokes about Hitler; he maintains that it’s okay to make joke about Hitler, but it isn’t okay to make jokes about the Holocaust.  There is nothing funny about the Holocaust.

The comedians heavily criticize the 1998 film, Life is Beautiful, for the way the filmmaker makes a comedy of the Holocaust. Life is Beautiful is an Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed film. It doesn’t poke fun at the suffering in a concentration camp, but it shows how a parent can love their child and how far one would go to keep a child’s innocence and joie de vie intact in the face of extreme adversity.

Sarah Silverman has made a few jokes about the Holocaust in her stand-up and on her Comedy Central show. She, like everyone else, understands that the Holocaust is a touchy subject. She has gotten some laughs from her jokes, she also doesn’t take it too far.

One argument the documentary makes is that with the passing of time, the ability to make a joke about the Holocaust may come; but that time has yet to come.

The Last Laugh isn’t a funny documentary, but it is full of funny people and jokes. Is the film groundbreaking? No, but it isn’t a bad movie. It’s mostly people sitting and talking at the camera, intercut with clips from famous comedies that touched on Hitler or the Holocaust. The film doesn’t show much of anything the average audience member hasn’t seen in a different documentary about the Holocaust.

It’s a solid 3 out of 5.

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