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?
The Last Laugh offers fresh insights into these questions, with an intimate portrayal of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone alongside interviews with influential comedians and thinkers ranging from Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Jeff Ross (Comedy Central Roast Battle), Larry Charles (director of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Borat), and Gilbert Gottfried, to authors Etgar Keret and Shalom Auslander, plus Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. The film also includes rare archival footage of cabarets inside the concentration camps themselves, 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. MORE
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 in the film: "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."
Ferne Pearlstein, an American filmmaker based in New York City, holds post-graduate degrees in documentary film and photography from Stanford University and the International Center of Photography. In 2003, Pearlstein‘s documentary Sumo East and West premiered at the Tribeca, Los Angeles, and Melbourne International Film Festivals, and was shown nationwide on Independent Lens. Other credits as director include Dita and the Family Business (PBS) with Josh Taylor, and three short films, including her debut Raising Nicholas, which premiered at the Sundance and San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals. As a director of photography with dozens of films to her credit, Pearlstein is one of only a handful of female cinematographers featured in Kodak's long-running “On Film” ad campaign in American Cinematographer magazine. In 2004 she won the Excellence in Cinematography Prize at Sundance for her work on Imelda, which followed former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos during her campaign for the presidency. Among her other credits as cinematographer are: Academy Award®-winner Alex Gibney’s segment of Freakonomics; Ruthie and Connie (HBO); and The Voice of the Prophet where she met her longtime collaborator and husband Robert Edwards. LESS