When Jews Were Funny
Rodney Dangerfield (Actor), Howie Mandel (Actor), Alan Zweig (Director) Rated: NR (Not Rated) Format: DVD
Insightful and often hilarious, Alan Zweig’s documentary When Jews Were Funny surveys the history of Jewish comedy, from the early days of Borsht belt to the present, ultimately exploring not just ethnicity in the entertainment industry, but also the entire unruly question of what it means to be Jewish.
The answers are surprising. Veterans of the 1940s and 1950s, an age when assimilation was a goal, deny, sometimes vehemently, that their comedy reflected anything of Jewish culture. For several of the younger comics, their biggest influences are family members, fathers, aunts, yentas. Many bemoan the loss of Yiddish, while arguing about the quintessential Jewish joke.
As Zweig and his subjects shuttle from the universal to the particular and back again, the movie’s real subject isn’t so much comedy but what it means to be Jewish. It’s an impossible question to answer, of course. But it’s also one well worth exploring, especially in a movie as funny and heartfelt as this one.
“An entertaining and enjoyable examination of comedy, identity and what it means to be Jewish today.” —Screen Daily
“Entertaining…engrossing…fun viewing!” —The Globe and Mail
“Some very funny people tell some great jokes.” —The Hollywood Reporter
Actors: Rodney Dangerfield, Howie Mandel, Gilbert Gottfried, Eugene Mirman, Marc Maron
Directors: Alan Zweig
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, HiFi Sound, NTSC, Widescreen
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: First Run Features
DVD Release Date: April 1, 2014
Run Time: 89 minutes
Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
5 thumbs up!
By Arthur Pollock on May 28, 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The director is a nebbish who puts himself into the film too much and Shelly Berman gets way too much screen time saying nothing much and mostly just looking uncomfortable BUT it’s the best distillation of Jewish humor that I’ve ever seen.
Most of the colorful comics interviewed had very insightful comments not to mention some hilarious classic Jewish jokes and bits of Jewish folklore. This film is educational AND very funny. Members of the tribe will enjoy it immensely and the goyim will finally understand why Jews like to kvetch and regard sarcasm as an integral component of humor. Makes me want to listen to my old Lenny Bruce and Myron Cohen albums right now!