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When Jews Were Funny (2013)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 25 March 2014 (USA)
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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Jack Carter: You avoided it like the plague. There was no Jewish Comedians per se. It was outlawed then. It wasn't... it wasn't in.
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References Mary Tyler Moore (1970) See more »

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Beautiful and Nostalgic
16 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I am around the age of the director Alan Zweig, 60, and I come from a Jewish New York background, so I got exactly what Zweig was saying. We had very funny Jewish relatives and we watched Jewish comics on television almost every night of the week. We grew up at a very special time and only now are beginning to realize how special it was. Many Jews like myself and Zweig stopped observing all religious practices, married non-Jews and only had one or two child. I had about 15 or aunts and uncles and other funny Jewish relatives. My daughter only has three or four and they certainly aren't as funny. About every third comic/comedian on television was Jewish including many of the top ones like Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle and Jack Benny. Today, only about one out of ten are Jewish. For example, I think Vanessa Bayer is only one of the 15 comedians currently on SNL that is Jewish. Compare that to SNL in its first season where Lorraine Newman, Gilda Rahdna, Al Franken were all Jewish and the first three guest hosts George Carlin, Paul Simon and Rob Reiner were all Jewish, not to mention the show's creator Lorne Michaels and half the writing staff.

What I loved about seeing the movie was getting to see some old Jewish comics whom I haven't seen in decades. I was really glad to know that they're still alive and kicking, these include Norm Cosby, Shelley Berman, Jack Carter, David Steinberg ("Boolah, Boolah"), David Brenner, and Bob Einstein (whom I still remember best as Officer Judy on the Smothers Brothers Show). Seeing these and others brought back a flood of memories. It was like seeing childhood friends again.

The second great thing is that they all tell great old Jewish jokes in the movie. I had forgotten these wonderful jokes.

My only criticism of the movie is that I wish there were more clips of deceased Jewish comedians. Alan King, Rodney Dangerfield and Henny Youngman clips are shown, but there were dozens more that I would have loved to have seen, Irwin Corey, Joe E. Lewis, Molly Pecon, Bert Lahr, Red Buttons, Jan Murray, etc.

Still, it was a sweet and funny and beautiful little movie and it made me think about aspects of my life I haven't thought about in many, many years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Alan Zweig.


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