MEL BROOKS – Comedy legend who has made a career of satirizing Hitler and the Nazis. Brooks’ comedy would seem to be the quintessential example of so-called “Holocaust humor.” Yet in our lengthy interview with him—which serves as a central part of our narrative—he shows a surprising unease with the subject, and makes a sharp distinction between satirizing the Nazis (whom he considers a time-honored target) and humor at the expense of the victims.


CARL REINER – Revered comic actor, writer, and director whose career spans six decades. Perhaps best known as part of a comedy duo with Mel Brooks, stretching back to their early years as staff writers on Sid Caesar’s seminal 1950s variety series Your Show of Shows.


SARAH SILVERMAN – Comedian and free speech activist known for pushing the boundaries of acceptability, perhaps more so than any other contemporary stand-up comic.


ROBERT CLARY – Franco-Polish actor, entertainer, and Auschwitz survivor who as a teenaged boy performed in the camps. Later starred in the controversial 1960s situation comedy Hogan’s Heroes about a Nazi Allied POWs in a Nazi prison camp.


ROB REINER – Acclaimed actor, writer, director, and activist (and son of Carl Reiner) who began his career on the controversial Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 1960s, and became a household name on the even more controversial, taboo-breaking comedy All in the Family.


SUSIE ESSMAN – Comedian best known for her television role as the outrageous Susie Greene on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.


HARRY SHEARER – Actor, writer, and satirist (as well as a child of survivors) who is one of a handful of people who have seen Jerry Lewis’ controversial unreleased 1972 Holocaust film The Day the Clown Cried.


JEFFREY ROSS – Comedian best known for his “too soon” jokes including numerous Holocaust references. Dubbed the “Roastmaster General” for his work on the Comedy Central Roasts.


ALAN ZWEIBEL – A producer, director, playwright, and veteran comedy writer who began his career on the original Saturday Night Live in the 1970s (particularly writing for Gilda Radner) and continues to be at the forefront of contemporary comedy, working with Larry David, Lisa Lampanelli, Billy Crystal, et al.


GILBERT GOTTFRIED – Divisive comedian known for making jokes in very bad taste; fired as the voice of the Aflac duck after making taboo tweets about the devastating tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.


JUDY GOLD – Jewish-American lesbian comedian who is a self-proclaimed obsessive on the subject of the Holocaust.


LARRY CHARLES – Writer/director at the forefront of present day taboo-breaking comedy as a veteran of the Seinfeld writing staff, director of the infamous “Survivor” episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (among others), and director of three Sacha Baron Cohen features (Borat, Bruno, and The Dictator) as well as Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous.


DAVID STEINBERG – One the most well-regarded comedy directors and writers of his generation, whose controversial comedy “sermons” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 1960s contributed to the surprising cancellation of that top-rated CBS-TV program.


ABRAHAM FOXMAN – Holocaust survivor and longtime president of the Anti-Defamation League, perhaps the best-known and most prominent watchdog on anti-Semitism in American culture.


LISA LAMPANELLI – Self-proclaimed “insult comic” and the “Queen of Mean,” who thinks nothing is off-limits for comedy. Infamous for a joke made at a Comedy Central Roast of actor David Haselhoff (who is immensely popular as a pop singer in Germany) where she proclaimed his music so bad that had it been played at Auschwitz “the Jews would have sprinted for those ovens.”


DAVID CROSS – Comedian who participated in several satirical public readings of the screenplay of Jerry Lewis’s unreleased Holocaust comedy The Day the Clown Cried until Lewis’ lawyers shut them down with a cease-and-desist order.


ROZ WEINMAN – Child of survivors and former head of Standards and Practices for NBC during the Seinfeld years, who discusses her regrets over the term ‘Soup Nazi,’ the sliding standards for different shows and audiences, and how limitations can be a boon rather than a hindrance to creativity.


KLARA FIRESTONE – Renee’s Firestone’s daughter and founder of ‘2nd Generation Los Angeles’ (2GLA), a group for the children of survivors. A psychotherapist by trade (named after Renee’s own younger sister who was murdered in medical experiments at Auschwitz), Klara helps us navigate these issues from the perspective of a child of survivors.


ELLY GROSS – Auschwitz survivor who feels it is never acceptable to use humor in connection to the Holocaust. She and Renee debate this difficult topic while riding in a gondola down a fake canal through a shopping mall in the surreal surroundings of the Venetian casino and hotel in Las Vegas.


DEB FILLER – New Zealand-based comedian, monologist, and child of survivors whose one-woman show Punch Me in the Stomach features a cast of characters based on her survivor family members.


ETGAR KERET – Satirical Israeli novelist and short story author whose work draws heavily on his survivor parents and his experience growing up as a ‘2G.’ His most recent novel, The Seven Good Years, is about the seven years leading up to his son’s birth and his father’s death.


SHALOM AUSLANDER – American novelist and writer whose works draws on his ultra-Orthodox Jewish upbringing in upstate New York, which he eventually fled. Author of the memoir Foreskin’s Lament, the short story collection Beware of God, and the biting satirical novel Hope: A Tragedy, which portrays Anne Frank as a bitter 95-year-old woman still stuck in an attic, trying to finish her second book.


JAKE EHRENREICH – 2G monologist and performer whose one-man show A Jew Grows in Brooklyn explores his experiences growing up as a child of survivors.


HANALA SAGAL – 2G author of the memoir My Parents Went Through the Holocaust and All I Got Was this Lousy T-Shirt, concerning her experiences growing up as a child of survivors. (Hanala is also a writer and co-executive producer on the upcoming feature Elvis & Nixon.)


RENEE FIRESTONE – 92-year-old Auschwitz survivor and anti-genocide activist whose remarkable vérité story runs parallel to our Greek chorus of interviews. Renee serves as a living example of the uses—and pitfalls—of using humor to come to terms with the terrible events of the Shoah.


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Michelle DiMartino


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