Friday, October 25, 2013

WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL loft documentary oct 2013

Sure, this lovable doc could include more jokes. Blame the early days of black-and-white television for my love of vaudeville humor.

But the heartfelt documentary "When Comedy Went To School," now playing at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., can still fluff up a lot of fondness for those standup comedians who plied their trade in upstate New York's Catskill mountain resorts after World War II.

We learn Grossinger's, for example, was originally a forgotten farmhouse with a lot of rooms, purchased during the early 1900s by Asher Selig Grossinger, who offered guests a kosher kitchen.

And talk about an odd couple, Buddy Hackett and Lenny Bruce were once Catskill busboys who roomed together.

Jewish American culture sank deep roots into such mountain hotel giants as Grossinger's, the Flagler, the Concord and the Pines. Colonies of rental cabins added their own unique flavor of camping out under the trees.

But even though the established places put a lot of emphasis on their endless food service and energetic social directors, we are here to celebrate the comedians, especially the Jewish ones.

Before Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld there was Sid Caesar and that noisy kid Jerry Lewis. Mort Sahl was there, too, followed after a time by Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield.

These performers and lots more are represented in this 70-minute film. But they aren't telling jokes so much as they are talking about the atmosphere and attitudes of "working in the Catskills" where established comedians could safely experiment with new routines before taking them out in public – and the young guys could learn from the masters.

For anyone who has any connection at all to that scene, the manners and the jokes, "When Comedy Went To School" is like thumbing through the high school yearbook, laughing at the clothes as well as the humor while still feeling the comfort of sharing old times again.



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