Footage from the Filming of The Day the Clown Cried Featured in PBS Documentary on Holocaust Humor

The doc explores whether the Holocaust can be joked about—and includes behind-the-scene clips from Jerry Lewis’s never-released movie

Should comedy about the Holocaust be off-limits? If not, who is allowed to tell these jokes? When can humor about a painful subject be an act of resistance or survival? A new documentary, The Last Laugh, explores these questions—and, as you might guess, there are no easy answers.

The documentary features comedians like Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, and Jeff Ross, as well as poignant interviews with Holocaust survivors who share their own perspectives. “The film has ignited a lot of conversation ever since it premiered at Tribeca,” says director Ferne Pearlstein. “With the political climate the way that it is, it’s becoming even more timely.”

The Last Laugh includes rare footage of Jerry Lewis filming his never-before-seen drama The Day the Clown Cried, about a clown in a concentration camp who entertains children as they are sent to the gas chambers. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the controversial 1972 film, which has been seen by only a handful of people. (Pearlstein says that Lewis has given the Library of Congress permission to release the movie in 2024.)

The Last Laugh premieres Monday, April 24 on Independent Lens on PBS.

Exclusive clips below:

“The Holocaust Is Not Funny, But…”

“Holocaust Survivors in Vegas”