When Comedy Went to School | Chicago Reader

When Comedy Went to School

This standard clips-and-talking-heads documentary revisits the heyday of the Catskills, in upstate New York, as a resort community that bred such comedy legends as Jackie Mason, Joan Rivers, Buddy Hackett, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, and Alan King. A few of the comics who worked the east-coast circuit back then are still around to share their memories—Mason, Sid Caesar, Jerry Lewis—but not enough of them to provide a detailed, concrete sense of the place. To fill this out to feature length, directors Ron Frank and Mevlut Akkaya grope around for tangentially related subjects (the roots of Jewish humor, the psychology of laughter, the rise of the comedy club), and the result is shapeless and generic. ("Make 'Em Laugh" and "Send in the Clowns" both turn up on the soundtrack.) Among the other witnesses are Mort Sahl, Jerry Stiller, Joe Franklin, Larry King, and Mickey Freeman.

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