When Jews Were Funny

Sunday, September 21 at 2:00 p.m.

Dir: Alan Zweig

2013, 88 min.

“We complain, we eat, and we’re funny. Those are the three life forces of Judaism,” jokes comedian Howie Mandel in this documentary exploring why Jewish humor is unique and why Jews make great storytellers. Director Alan Zweig delves into the roots and the manifestations of his Jewish identity, and particularly the question of how this Jewishness of his has persisted though he’s done nothing to maintain it. He begins his exploration by trying to answer a question that’s intrigued him since childhood. Why were all the comedians he watched on TV in the fifties and sixties, Jewish? At first he doesn’t get the answers he was hoping for but he trusts in the old saying, “two Jews, three opinions” and eventually some answers start to form.

“When Jews Were Funny” features Marc Maron, Howie Mandel, Gilbert Gottfried, Rodney Dangerfield, Eugene Mirman, Bob Einstein, Judy Gold, David Steinberg, Jackie Mason and many more.

This screening is sponsored by Ken Sable in memory of Philip R. Sable.

Screens with “The Baptizm of Joshua Cohen”


Alan Zweig – Writer/Director

Alan Zweig was born and educated in Toronto and never left, except for a couple of years beating around India after university. “Vinyl”, a documentary ostensibly about record collecting was the film that first brought director Alan Zweig to the public’s attention. But that happened in his late forties and he’d been beating around the film business for almost 25 years at that point. Before that, he’d made a narrative drama and some short ones, one of them winning the first short film award given out by what was then The Festival of Festivals in 1989. There was some episodic writing, some developed scripts, and even some optioned ones. And he’s acted in a few things including Trigger and the cult short “The Ballad of Don Quinn”. But the most money he ever made in the business, to this day actually, was as a driver. His first transportation gig was on Videodrome but they weren’t all that notable. After “Vinyl” though, Zweig reinvented himself as personal documentarian and in 2009 won the Genie for best feature documentary, with his film “A Hard Name”. “When Jews Were Funny” is his sixth feature length doc and his first film at TIFF since that award winning short film.