Making Trouble in Boston
Yesterday I finally got to see Making Trouble, the film produced by the Jewish Women's Archive, on the big screen. After sold-out shows at film festivals around the country (plus Jerusalem!), Making Trouble made its Boston premiere as part of the Boston Jewish Film Festival. Though I've seen the film several times, and in various versions, it was exciting to see it in a theater, with a big audience.
The film tells the stories of six Jewish comedians - Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, and Wendy Wasserstein. The historical segments are framed by scenes of four contemporary comedians - Judy Gold, Jackie Hoffman, Cory Kahaney, and Jessica Kirson - chatting over lunch at Katz's Deli in New York. It's fun to hear them riff about being women in comedy and muse about their place in the continuum of Jewish comedians.
In featuring these particular comic performers, the film expands our sense of comedy beyond "stand up" and the borsht belt to include vaudeville, Yiddish theater, and comic playwriting. It also shows the ways that women have used comedy to overcome obstacles, challenge social expectations, fight disease, and heal pain.
At this viewing, I happened to be particularly struck by the segment on Joan Rivers. I'm not really a fan of Rivers - I find her red carpet commentary annoying and her plastic surgery addiction frightening. But Making Trouble gave me a different perspective on her career, showing her rejection of the traditional suburban matron path, and her determination to pursue comedy, which she felt was her calling. I didn't know that she had lost her hard-earned position in the comedy world when her husband committed suicide. Tainted by this tragedy, she basically had to start over from the bottom, working small clubs - and demeaning jobs like the red carpet - to rebuild her career.
In today's scary world, we can use all the stories of humor and inspiration we can get. So keep your eye out for Making Trouble, which is coming to a film festival near you!