When Jews Were Funny
Director: Alan Zweig
Zweig (I, Curmudgeon, Vinyl) delivers his second film this year with a personal look at his desire to reconnect with the more openly comedic aspects of his heritage and upbringing, partially for the benefit of his young daughter who he wants to have an awareness of her cultural identity.
What makes Zweig’s work here so fascinating and thoughtful – aside from the obvious personal connection – is his interactions with comics who aren’t as forthcoming and open about their connection to Judaism. Old school comics like Shelley Berman and Jack Carter seem put-off by broaching the subject. Bob “Super Dave” Einstein is passionate, but uncomfortably ornery to watch. Newer comics like Marc Maron and still working pros David Steinberg and Mark Breslin offer the best and most prescient insights by willing to get personal.
Zweig has always been open about his curmudgeonly nature, and it’s great to watch him try to cut through when his subjects are just doing their act because they think it’s funny or because it’s secretly a defence mechanism. Ultimately it makes a great point about the poignancy of life’s small moments taking on a humorous life of their own that goes beyond just the ethnic reach of the film’s title. It’s one of his best films. (Andrew Parker)
Tuesday, September 10th, Scotiabank 13, 9:15pm
Thursday, September 12th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 9:15pm
Sunday, September 15th, Scotiabank 9, 4:45pm