The great comedian Carol Burnett was once quoted as saying that “comedy is tragedy plus time.” The question is how much time has to pass before it’s alright to take a tragic, even traumatizing, event and use it as a framing device for a joke? What purpose does humor serve under these circumstances? And from where does this impulse to turn tragedy into humor spring? These are weighty questions and take on even greater seriousness when put in the context of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, this is the terrain that Ferne Pearlstein (producer of When I Live My Life Over, SFJFF 2015), set out to explore in The Last Laugh. In the film, she weaves together interviews with Holocaust survivors who talk about the importance of laughter, even amidst the tragedy of the concentration camps, as well as conversations with comedic giants like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Sarah Silverman. In doing so, Pearlstein invites the viewer on a journey across a comedic landscape marked by speed bumps, caution signs and potholes big enough to swallow a clown car. The Last Laugh will leave you laughing and appreciating the importance of humor even in the face of events that make you want to cry.
- Mark Valentine