I just screened a copy of Making Trouble, and sheesh, is my tush tired from bending over…
Sorry, that was a bad joke.
That’s why I leave comedy to the experts — namely, the outstanding Jewish comediennes profiled in this historic, hilarious look at funny Jewish women. A collaboration of Jewish Women’s Archive and filmmaker Rachel Talbot, Making Trouble shines a spotlight back to a time when being a woman, Jewish or funny maligned you for life. Yet somehow, impish Yiddish-speaking film star Molly Picon and later, Ziegfield Follies’ sensation Fanny Brice broke through to become national icons and influence the art of comedy for generations.
When bawdy Sophie Tucker came on to the scene with her “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” routine, the road had been paved for the smart-assed Jewish women performers that are more familiar to the the GenX crowd: Joan Rivers, whose early footage in this film reminds those who might think that she’s just some dragon-taloned rasp on the red carpet that Joan’s tenacious, whip-smart wit has been around since black-and-white TV, and Gilda Radner, who was revolutionary in that she put aside shtick to dig deeper into a genuine, character-based hilarity that made Saturday Night Live’s first seasons the benchmark of skit comedy.
In between are interviews with comedy regulars as well as a roundtable of contemporary funny women: Judy Gold (a Yenta favorite!), Jackie Hoffman (whose nerd glasses and gargantuan cleavage were a perfect wardrobe choice), Cory Kahaney (her immigrant father needed to sound Irish to get a job on the docks – “Kahan” + “ey,” get it?) and Jessica Kirson (of VH-1’s Awesomely Bad.) Of course, they’re sitting around Katz’s deli and eating, which made me want to just hang out for hours.
I’d like to see Making Trouble on the calendar of every Jewish Film Festival and in every Jewish livingroom library in the country. While it’ll have you guffawing and giggling, it serves as a vital addition to the Jewish archives — our kids (hell, most adults) need to know that a zaftig lady named Sophie Tucker was way raunchier and sexier than any Lady BlahBlah with her underpants and fake blood. Yenta Boy watched with me, he adored Molly Picon and really liked that he got to listen to some “f-bombs” in the name of Jewish education.
He also said Joan Rivers reminded him of his grandma, which I hope she’ll take as a compliment.