I don't think I've ever been offended by a joke. I've thought some jokes were in bad taste, but I've never been offended, I've never whined that someone shouldn't say that, I've never wanted someone banned from TV or radio or whatever. I may be somewhat swayed by listening to five hours of Free Beer & Hot Wings every morning, but even before I started working here, I always understood that jokes were jokes. I'm also a believer that tragedy+time=comedy, and that sometimes humor is the best way to get through a traumatic situation. Some people, however, disagree.

The main focus of "The Last Laugh" is World War II. It touches briefly on other "taboo" subjects, but most of the interviews and interviewees focus on Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust. The question the entire documentary asks is "is it ever okay to joke about the Holocaust?", and the answers come from comedic legends like Mel Brooks and Carl & Rob Reiner, contemporary comics like Sarah Silverman and Jeff Ross, and actual survivors of the Holocaust.

It's obvious that most of the comics are in support of free speech, but it was interesting to see how each of them had slightly different lines. Mel Brooks brought us "Springtime For Hitler" and "The Inquisition", but he still said he wouldn't do a joke specifically about the Holocaust. There did seem to be something of a generation gap, where the people who grew up further from WW2 were more comfortable with using humor.

To provide a counterpoint, the doc brought in a few people to be sticks-in-the-mud and whine about how there's nothing funny about the Holocaust or Nazis. These are the sort of people that I pity, because they can't separate the concept of mocking the Holocaust (which is undoubtedly inappropriate) versus using the Holocaust as a punchline (which, if part of a good joke, can be funny). Jeff Ross goes into this a bit deeper, pointing out that sure, no one is walking up saying "Hey, it was hilarious that millions of people died". I also mentioned it can be funny if it's a "good" joke, and I get that humor is subjective no matter what the topic, but there is something to the idea of just using anti-Semitic humor to be hateful versus being lazy versus being witty.

I think the only failing of this doc was that it did nothing to convince me that maybe the other side had a point, and I don't think it really did anything that would convince the other side to change their mind either. If you think it's strictly forbidden to make a joke about Nazis or 9/11 or AIDS, no joke or comic or movie is going to be able to change your mind. If you're like me, and believe that no subject is too sacred, you're a lot more fun to hang out with, and you'll likely never change either.

[Celluloid Hero] gives "The Last Laugh" a 6 out of 10.



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