WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE? HOLLYWOOD’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH JEWISH HUMOR
Taught by Peter L. Stein
Thursdays, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
4 Sessions, October 29 – November 19
Registration deadline: October 19
$125 ($105 for JxJ Donors of certain levels*)
The Jewish contribution to American movies tends to focus on its legendary producers and studio moguls, from Samuel Goldwyn and the Warner Bros. to Steven Spielberg. But just as important is the unmistakable stamp of Jewish humor that has made a lasting—and hilarious—impression on movie audiences worldwide, over the course of 100 years of American cinema.
“What’s Not to Like? Hollywood’s Love Affair with Jewish Humor” is an entertaining four-part class, peppered generously with funny clips from both well-known and hidden comedy gems. We will look at some of the hallmarks of Jewish humor that have come to define American movie comedy.
Beginning with tricksters like the Marx Brothers, wise-cracking their way into the halls of power, we find that much of Jewish humor in the movies is rooted in their status as outsiders. We’ll also examine the particular American Jewish characters (even stereotypes) that form the foundation of Jewish movie comedy: the endearing nebbishes and shlemiels of early Woody Allen and Gene Wilder; guilt-dispensing Jewish mothers and bookish scholars; funny misfits (think young Streisand); and the high-wire ridicule acts of Mel Brooks and Sacha Baron Cohen. Along the way we’ll see how the changing status of Jews in America—moving from the margins (Fanny Brice) to the mainstream (Judd Apatow)—has impacted the kind of movie humor we think of as Jewish.
Class 1: “What’s So Funny?” Some definitions of Jewish comedy, and the recurring roles of tricksters, shlemiels and nebbishes.
Class 2:” Underdog Humor: Ridiculing the Oppressor”
Class 3: “Funny Women: Enduring Roles and Subversive Acts”
Class 4: “The Comedy of Assimilation”
Clips will include selections from: Animal Crackers (1930), Young Frankenstein (1974), The Frisco Kid (1979), The Producers (1967), Funny Girl (1968), Take the Money and Run (1969), Annie Hall (1977), Torch Song Trilogy (1988), West Bank Story (2005), Borat (2006), The Guilt Trip (2012) and many more.
Note: Additional streaming film rentals may be required
Teacher: Peter L. Stein is a Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker and freelance film writer, programmer and presenter. For eight years he was Executive Director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and currently serves as Senior Programmer for Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. He has taught courses and lectured on many aspects of Jewish film at such institutions as The Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning (University of San Francisco), the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley), JCCSF (San Francisco), and the Edlavitch DCJCC and Avalon Theatre Film Studies (Washington, DC). More at www.peterLstein.com