The Last Laugh (2016)

At the airport, bored and falling asleep during a 5+ hours wait for my connection flight, I started looking for something interesting on Netflix and I stumbled upon The Last Laugh. It sounded like an interesting documentary so I watched it. It turned out to be a nice film but it was not the film I thought it'd be.

Described as a documentary about jokes, bad taste and boundaries of comedy, it is actually a documentary that explores the relationship between humour and tragedy, heavily focusing on the Holocaust, and tackles the issues of what you can and cannot joke about.

Is the Holocaust funny? Is it okay to joke about some of the biggest tragedies? Or is it just bad taste? These are some of the questions explored through interviews with famous Jewish entertainers and comedians such as Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, and Judy Gold. These people answer by saying how personal and different notions of humour and offence can be, how only some people are allowed to say certain jokes --Holocaust jokes, for examples, are allowed only if a Jew makes them. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s not bad taste and the film explores that as well along with how hard it is to tell a joke about a tragedy, whether it’s the Holocaust, AIDS, or 9/11, and make it work.

These topics are only in part discussed by famous entertainers as concentration camp survivors also share their thoughts about this matter, and, just like the comedians, they have a different perspective. Some, like Renee Firestone, an Auschwitz survivor turned educator, are able to find some of the things that happened to them humorous –of course, they were not funny when they happened but thinking about them now, they can’t help but smile/laugh about them. Some just find this kind of humour tasteless and offensive.

Journeyman Pictures, Film Collaborative, The
The problem I had with The Last Laugh, other than being way heavier than it said on Netflix, is that it is unevenly engaging. Some people are very interesting to listen to, others are kind of boring. Also, some of the scenes where the survivors talked about humour were a bit cringe. And lastly, The Last Laugh doesn’t really feel like a documentary but more like a good idea to make one.


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