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Starting with the question of why there were so many Jewish comedians on television when he was younger, director Alan Zweig begins exploring the idea of Jewish comedy, but ultimately looks at what it means to be Jewish. Interviews with numerous Jewish comedians, including Shecky Green, Marc Maron, Howie Mandel, and Bob ‘Super Dave Osborne’ Einstein, give viewers an incredibly funny look at the history of comedy, and what these various comedians feel about Jewish humour and heritage.

When Jews Were Funny becomes so much more than it seems. What starts as an exploration of Jewish comedy, quickly turns to nostalgic stories of family, and the reasons why Jewish people have such a great sense of humour. Director Alan Zweig wants to know why many comedians of the 50s and 60s were Jewish, but as the documentary continues, we start to see that Zweig is searching for something else entirely.

Stories about the different comedians families, and how they’ve changed from the early immigrants to the more assimilated families they’ve started themselves, fill the movie. There’s a very strong sense of nostalgia to the film, with almost every interviewee talking about how funny their grandparents, or aunts and uncles were. It’s this search for times gone by, and the hilarious family moments that came with them, that Zweig really seems to be looking for.

Is When Jews Were Funny essential TIFF viewing?

Incredibly funny, and equally touching, this lighthearted look at comedy history, as well as the Jewish culture, will entertain everybody. A must see for anybody looking for laughs, and a few tears.

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