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When Jews Were Funny (2013)

Surveys the history of Jewish comedy.

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Alan Zweig's 2013 documentary "When Jews Were Funny" surveys the often colorful history of Jewish comedy in America. The documentary is insightful, often hilarious and packed with one-liners. While taking the viewer on the journey through the history of Jewish comedy, a second journey is taken in the exploration of what it means to be Jewish in America. Written by rleegray

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25 March 2014 (USA)  »

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About 40 years too late...
31 December 2014 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

The notion of making a film like "When Jews Were Funny" is a pretty good one. However, it's not a particularly good film--and much of it is because so many of the great Jewish comedians are dead. Who's left feels like a who's who of the D-list comedians. I won't name any names--I do NOT want to be mean. Had the film been made in the 1940s, 50s, 60s or even 70s, many brilliant comics could have provided their insights--and the film would have been so much better.

Some of the old-time comics they interviewed seemed a bit ashamed of being labeled 'a Jewish comedian' or possibly worried about being seen as 'just Jewish'--which WAS a very interesting thing to follow- up on and I would LOVED to have heard much more about this sort of attitude. Yet, many of the younger folks didn't seem to feel that way at all. Again, this difference was interesting but didn't seem to be followed up on very well. Why did so many of the older folks de-emphasize their Jewishness while the next generation in the film tended NOT to? And, what exactly WAS the history of Jewish humor in America? Well, after seeing this film, I still didn't know because the film just seemed to go in many directions.

Overall, a tighter focus and more interesting interviews (much of this just wasn't funny but should have been and the great comics simply are dead in too many cases) would have helped make this a much better documentary.


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