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About The Film
What begins as an elegy for Jewish comedy develops into a deeper, trickier investigation into cultural identity in the fascinating and frequently very amusing WHEN JEWS WERE FUNNY.
Embracing a stripped-down format, Canadian documentarian Alan Zweig conducts a series of free-form interviews with industry greats, spanning the early days of the Borsht Belt to the present, from Shecky Greene and Norm Crosby to Howie Mandel, Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Gold, Bob Einstein (better known as Super Dave Osborne), and more. The give-and-take interactions, sprinkled with occasional TV performance clips, are often surprising and even combative. Old school comics of the age of assimilation bristle at the notion of a uniquely ethnic brand of humor, while younger generations affirm the influences that make their jokes quintessentially Jewish. Nostalgic for the lost days of vaudeville and comforting clichés of Jewish humor, Zweig ultimately abandons the premise of his film to confront a more personal guilt about continuity and the decline of his own Jewishness.
Winner of the Best Canadian Feature award at the Toronto International Film Festival, WHEN JEWS WERE FUNNY reveals itself to be less about comedy than what it means to be Jewish, a nearly impossible question, but one well worth exploring.