When Jews Were Funny, a documentary that by its very title could insult the subjects by insinuating with “when” they are no longer, is a series of conversations with Jewish comedians about what Jewish humour is, was, or ever was in the first place. Yet, the interviewers sat, chat, and kvetched.
Questions regarding Jewish sense of humour, Jewish comedians, and whether or not a certain type of older Jew and Jewish humour was becoming extinct are among those raised by director Alan Zweig. With varying answers, responses, and classic jokes, the audience gets to eavesdrop like flies on the walls.
Speaking with a variety of comics including David Steinberg, Howie Mandel, and Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave Osborne) and sporadically slipping in archival footage from old timers like Jackie Mason, the film has laugh out loud moments sprinkled with a heavy smear of Yiddish.
Neither myself, nor some of the subjects, and I suspect perhaps Zweig himself at times, were entirely sure what the thesis of the doc was. However, despite not allows knowing where it was leading, the journey was entertaining and splattered with jokes often preluded by “well of course you know the one about the…” What I’m curious about is whether goys’ll get it?
When Jews Were Funny screens at TIFF:
Tuesday September 1 atScotiabank at 9:15 PM; Thursday September 12 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema at 9:15 PM; and Sunday September 15 at Scotiabank at 4:45 PM