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When Comedy Went to School (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)


When Comedy Went to School


When Comedy Went to School (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Like most people under a certain age, I missed the hey-day of the Catskill Mountain Resorts, which mostly was from the 1930s to the early 1960s.  However, I do remember in the early 1980s, while on a road trip to Canada, stopping in New York state to spend a few hours with my grandparents, who had experienced the glory days. They were visiting one of the few remaining resorts, just for old times’ sake.

Honestly, I couldn’t tell you for the life of me which resort they were in – though seeing this movie makes me think it may very well have been Kutsher’s. Kutsher’s is the last surviving resort and looked awfully familiar from the current footage in this documentary celebrating the era, history and influence of the Catskill resorts.  Sadly I can’t check this with my grandparents, who both died within a few years after the visit.  However, even as a teen, I remember being decidedly underwhelmed by the place, which seemed like an once opulent vacation paradise that had been left behind by the times.  In fact the only concessions which had seemed to be made to the modern world was a tiny arcade room (with Pong and Space Invaders!), cable television and a much smaller clientele.

It may have been a paradise for an earlier generation, but it was one which I had missed out on experiencing.

That is, until now.

When Comedy Went to School is a loving remembrance of “The Sour Cream Riviera,” as one of the talking heads in the movie referred to it.  It speaks with surviving members of the Borscht Belt and shows a way of life and vacation style which is both foreign to modern citizens and quaintly charming.  It was an immigrant paradise made up of food, love, comedy and community which seems quaint to a generation who can easily book foreign travel on Priceline.com.

Yet at the same time it is a world which is not without its charms, including formality (imagine dressing in a suit and tie while on vacation!), gluttony (the Catskills kitchens didn’t believe in small portions), innocence (people wanted nothing more than entertainment) and the birth of an entire generation of comic geniuses, many of whom followed up their Catskill residencies with international stardom.

However, When Comedy Went to School is more than a tribute to a forgotten vacation destination, it is also a thoughtful meditation on what it was like to be an American Jew in the 20th century.

Click here to read the rest of the review!

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