Lists Recaps Reviews Interviews Explainers

Should the Holocaust be off-limits to comedians? Independent Lens asks the question in The Last Laugh

Independent Lens asks: Should the Holocaust be the subject of comedy
The Last Laugh on Independent Lens asks whether the Holocaust should be off-limits to comedy

This week Independent Lens asks if the Holocaust should be off-limits to comedians.

The Last Laugh is a 90-minute documentary that asks whether some subjects are just too sensitive to be funny. Should certain topics always be taboo for comedy?

Comedians and indeed humans in general often use humor to make light of things that are in fact very serious or tragic.

It’s a sort of coping mechanism perhaps, that gets people through difficult times and helps them come to terms with terrible events — whether it’s the dark humor of morticians or the jokes doctors often crack to relieve the tension of a stressful day.

But where is the line? Is there one?

This documentary includes a profile of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone and includes a fascinating discussion with her and fellow survivor Elly Gross.

They both have very different takes on how to move forward from the terrible events that took place during WWII.

Elly Gross and Renee Firestone
Holocaust survivors Elly Gross and Renee Firestone have very different takes on life as a survivor

Elly feels that she cannot truly enjoy the beautiful things in life with the memories of children screaming during the camp selection process and the other terrifying things that took place in those dark days.

Renee is more positive and says that you cannot live in the shadow of the past, saying: “I’m so happy that I have three great grandchildren. Could Hitler imagine that I will survive and have three great-grandchildren? That’s my revenge.”

There are also interviews with various comedians and some rare film of cabarets put on in the actual concentration camps, as well as some fascinating footage from a Jerry Lewis comedy called The Day the Clown Cried which was never released.

Independent Lens airs on Mondays at 10pm on PBS.

James has worked for Monsters and Critics since it started back in 2003. He oversees the business and technical side of things. You can contact or follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Comment