Comedians have it good. Just recently, they were given a master class by multiple jokesters in Dying Laughing, a doc that gave an up-close-and-personal view of comedy. Now, they can watch The Last Laugh, a terrific documentary about how soon is “too soon”.
Stand-up performers are not the only people who would benefit from Ferne Pearlstein’s film though. The Last Laugh should be required viewing for anyone who has ever felt apprehension about acknowledging tragedies in an alternate manner.
The Last Laugh is a well-balanced think piece about the cause and effect of using humour to address and deal with sensitive topics. Renée Firestone along with other Holocaust survivors give Pearlstein honest thoughts about the past. While some can admit that tongue-in-cheek observations managed to distract them away from atrocities, others are still very heartbroken over the hardships they experienced. These opinions give the documentary the historic context and goodwill to expand on.
Jeff Ross, Sarah Silverman, Judy Gold, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, and other comedians list off their artistic predicaments when questioning what’s taboo and how off-colour jokes should be approached. Mel Brooks and his catalogue of satire is featured prominently, as well as rare explanations by filmmaker Larry Charles (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) about his provocative work.
The Last Laugh deconstructs risky desires and personal stories, and then merges both perspectives. During important sequences, Renée Firestone watches clips of touchy material, including Silverman’s shocking Jesus Is Magic special and an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm featuring a survivor debate between Survivor star Colby Donaldson and a Holocaust survivor. Pearlstein proceeds to peel away more layers of her film by featuring intercut debating about what’s considered tasteless and what’s fair. A surprising number of intelligent comedians believe Life Is Beautiful is an awful representation of the Holocaust, yet it brings one real-life victim to tears.
The Last Laugh may sound overstuffed with different topics and interviewees, but its coverage is interesting, empathetic, and – yes – very funny.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie