With a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes and the word "Nazi" taking on increasingly fresh relevance, the new documentary "The Last Laugh" couldn't be a better timed guide to resilience through the worst of times. Director Ferne Pearlstein and writer/producer Robert Edwards have a woven a tale that traces the history of how comedy has taken on Nazis from the dawn of World War II to the present. With wisdom from greats like Mel Brooks and Sarah Silverman, the film also explores the age-old question of where, if anywhere, humor draws the line.
The duo talked to Salon about showing the film both before and after the November elections — and about how perceptions about it are still continuing to change. "I think people are ready to laugh again so it's become funny again,"Pearlstein says. But she recalls when last fall she was "in nine back to back film festivals starting 24 hours after the election results came in, and… some of the things that were meant to be funny hit a little closer to home." Edwards, for instance, recalls a scene in the film in which a Holocaust survivor remembers when she was a girl watching Hitler rise to power, and her father telling her, "Don't listen to that comedian. He looks like Charlie Chaplin; he'll be gone in six months." Edwards adds, "When audiences hear that now, they gasp."