A grand-scale survey of Jewish humor from the middle portion of the 20th century, shambling documentary When Comedy Went to School represents an amiable, openhearted attempt to shine a spotlight on the ethnic lineage of observational stand-up, and its roots in the vaudevillian era. Ostensibly a look at the so-called greatest generation of comedians — a generation that includes the likes of Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jerry Stiller, Jackie Mason and Mort Sahl, all interviewed here — and the manner in which they got their pre-television training in the resorts of the Catskill Mountains, the film is unfortunately too scattered and bereft of focus to connect with viewers outside of the most sympathetic and devoted habitués of old-school comedy.
Lacking any clean or clear throughlines, co-directors Ron Frank and Mevlut Akkaya’s film unfurls as a jumbled mass of half-baked historical footnotes, recollections, asides and unconnected details. Good intentions abound, but this Comedy is almost all cluttered, talky set-up, in other words. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. For more information on the film, meanwhile, click here to visit its website. In addition to its other theatrical engagements, the movie opens this week in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall and Town Center 5, with additional weekends shows in Pasadena and Claremont. (International Film Circuit, unrated, 76 minutes)