Google+

Borscht Belt Documentary Revisits the Rise of Legendary Jewish Comics

 

 

When Comedy Went to School

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

What do such legendary comics as Danny Kaye, Jerry Stiller, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Don Rickles, David Brenner, Buddy Hackett, Henny Youngman, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Alan King and Rodney Dangerfield have in common? They all got their start in showbiz doing stand-up in the Catskill Mountains at any number of the lush farm region’s hundreds of hotel resorts.

Starting in the late Thirties, the so-called Borscht Belt began catering to a clientele predominantly comprised of Jewish immigrants in

Danny Kaye

Danny Kaye

need of a summer retreat where they could get a break from the sweltering tenements of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After all, they had little interest in vacationing in Europe, a place most were lucky to have escaped.

So, they instead made an annual exodus to upstate New York for fresh air, good food and some fun in the sun. Each establishment there also had a nightly stage show where aspiring entertainers could ply their trade, including the aforementioned icons.

What made working the Catskills unique was that it served as a proving ground allowing a comedian to hone his or her skills en route to the big time, namely, movies and TV. As narrator Robert Klein puts it, “It was a laboratory. Comics had a place to be bad.”

This slice of Jewish history is the focus of When Comedy Went to School, an alternately informative and hilarious documentary co-directed by Mevlut Akkaya and Ron Frank. The film features reflections by surviving greats, as well as the insights of some members of the next generation, most notably, Jerry Seinfeld.

Sid Caesar and Florence

Sid Caesar and Florence

Sprinkled in amidst the enlightening history lessons are lots of one-liners preserved on vintage footage of yesteryear’s stars of tomorrow. To wit, Alan King: “My wife takes 40 minutes to lipstick her face because she has a big mouth.” And Joan Rivers: “I was the last girl in Larchmont to get married. My mom had to put up a sign saying, ‘Last girl before freeway.’” And Woody Allen: “This watch I’m wearing is a family heirloom. My grandfather, on his death bed, sold me this watch.”

Priceless!

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 77 minutes

Distributor: International Film Circuit

Source; Baret News Wire

Entertainment

Partisan Polemic Revisits Mike Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri

  Whose Streets? Film Review by Kam Williams Partisan Polemic Revisits Mike Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri On August 9, 2014, Mike Brown was shot a half-dozen times by police officer Darren Wilson on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly-black suburb of St. Louis. Because several eyewitnesses said the 18 year-old had his … [Read More its Good for You...]

Books

Book of Black Heroes

  Book of Black Heroes Political Leaders Past and Present by Gil L. Robertson, IV Foreword by Myrlie Evers-Williams Just Us Books Paperback, $12.95 80 pages ISBN: 978-1-933491-21-9 Book Review by Kam Williams “The first African-American political leaders began to serve following the Civil War...Known as Reconstruction, this period … [Read More its Good For You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the … [Read More its Good for You...]

Real Estate

Real Estate: Refinancing Rates on the Rise in 2017

  Real Estate: Refinancing Rates on the Rise in 2017 by Amy Lignor   The term ‘meteoric rise’ usually applies to something fun. Think: A Hollywood actor who has been ‘discovered.’) Unfortunately, when it comes to this article, ‘meteoric rise’ is something that will not bring a smile to one’s face. To put it simply, if you wish to refinance … [Read More its Good for You...]

Lifestyle

Girls Trip! Head to South Louisiana for Food, Fishing, and Culture

  Girls Trip! Head to South Louisiana for Food, Fishing, and Culture By Craig Lamb Ah, the New Orleans French Quarter. The sound of jazz coming from Preservation Hall. The taste of fresh beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde. Art galleries and shopping. French, Creole and Cajun cultures. It all has the makings of a girl’s getaway … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Rig your Carolina Skiff for Waterfowl Hunting

  Rig your Carolina Skiff for Waterfowl Hunting By Craig Lamb Versatility is one of the benefits of owning a Carolina Skiff. Some models are known as the pickup truck of skiffs. Others are three-in-one setups for fishing, utility work, and family cruising. All the above activities are part of life in skiff country. That is the miles of … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

College Football Arriving Soon!

  College Football Arriving Soon! by Amy Lignor   Ask any college football fan and they will tell you that it seems like an eternity waiting for the season to begin. But, have no fear, the kick-off to the college season is almost here, with Colorado State and Oregon State hitting the field on Saturday, August 26th at 2:30 p.m. ET. On … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Book of Black Heroes

  Book of Black Heroes Political Leaders Past and Present by Gil L. Robertson, IV Foreword by Myrlie Evers-Williams Just Us Books Paperback, $12.95 80 pages ISBN: 978-1-933491-21-9 Book Review by Kam Williams “The first African-American political leaders began to serve following the Civil War...Known as Reconstruction, this period … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Going Back in Time on the Ultimate Steamboat Vacation

  Going Back in Time on the Ultimate Steamboat Vacation by Amy Lignor   Many people love taking a cruise. But it is the river cruise on that glorious steamboat that not only offers all the benefits a big ocean liner offers, but also creates a more personalized, intimate vacation experience. It is a unique recipe: being able to witness … [Read More its Good for You...]