“From Charlie Chaplin to Jojo Rabbit…

…an unlikely history of Nazi comedies“: Charles Bramesco, in The Guardian 16.10.19.

“…Charlie Chaplin famously declared in his autobiography that if he had had a fuller notion of the inhumanity playing out in the concentration camps, he’d have never made 1940’s The Great Dictator. He claimed that he “could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis” had he been aware, effectively recanting the humanistic comedy that featured him in dual roles as a Jewish barber in the ghetto and effete military commander “Adenoid Hynkel”. All due respect to one of the greatest cinematic talents to have ever lived, but his sensitivity has been misapplied. The sequences that he worried might trivialize the suffering of those caught up in the Holocaust – the most memorable being a dainty ballet between Adenoid (a word meaning a mass of tissue blocking air passage between the back of the nose and the throat) and a glowing oversized globe he bounces around like a trained seal – only get their laughs at the expense of those in power. There’s nothing wrong with jokes about tragedy, so long as they have got the right butt.

Chaplin’s film concludes by dropping the bit and delivering an earnest monologue about the tantamount importance of goodness and decency. The man was always a sentimentalist at heart, and while that doesn’t necessarily weaken his film, its successors would advance this strain of satire by going all in on irony. Mel Brooks’ The Producers imagined the fictitious musical Springtime for Hitler, a work so supremely offensive that it would surely disgust Broadway and provide the flop the protagonists’ get-rich-quick scheme requires. Of course, the gag turns out to be on them; audiences had just started to warm up to the idea of weaponized bad taste and they’d stumbled into a hit…”

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