"From the nineteen thirties to the late sixties, the Catskill hotels were the setting for the most important, fascinating era in American humor. During that time, comedy went to school, and what a graduating class."
Those are the opening lines in When Comedy Went to School, a new movie that's slated to debut on July 31 in selected cities. Hosted by comedian/actor Robert Klein, the 83 minute documentary film features interviews with comic greats who redefined standup and sketch comedy, and forever altered the course of American humor.
Such comic legends as Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory, Jerry Stiller and others, offer their unique heartfelt and oftentimes hilarious anecdotes about what the Catskills meant to their careers.
Former Catskill busboy Larry King recounts his experiences, and displays a surprising comedic touch himself. Hugh Hefner discusses his role in supporting the "New Comedy", specifically Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and Dick Gregory. Historian Professor Joseph Dorinson and noted sociologist/author Lawrence Epstein provide cogent, informative perspectives on subjects including humor as a survival tool and defense mechanism in Jewish history, immigration and assimilation, and the correlation between anti-Semitism and the rise of the Catskills.
Through rare archival clips, When Comedy Went to School pays homage to many other Catskill veterans, including Danny Kaye, Mel Brooks, Red Buttons, Buddy Hackett, Lenny Bruce, Henny Youngman, Don Rickles, Totie Fields, and Rodney Dangerfield. In later years, Billy Crystal, Joan Rivers, Woody Allen and a very young Jerry Seinfeld built on this foundation.
If you love Jewish comedy, this is a film not to be missed. We had the privilege of seeing it in a special showing in Manhattan a few weeks ago. We watched with a mixture of laughter and wistfulness about the old days and the old comedians who were able to participate in the project and show that they still have their magic touch.
The film debuts in New York City on July 31, and you can see it at the IFC Center and the JCC in Manhattan. It rolls out on August 2 in Malverne and Kew Gardens, New York, followed by Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Lenox, Massachusetts later in August. Here's a link to the playdates.
During the coming weeks we'll be focusing on the comedians who graduated from comedy school in the Catskills and we'll bring you some of their funniest classic bits.
We've been sitting on this story for a few weeks until we could show you some film clips. They became available today, so Jewish Humor Central readers are the first to see these three glimpses of When Comedy Went to School.
Enjoy and share with your friends!
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)