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Film Club

Conversations on Essential Cinema: The Great Dictator

February 17, 2021

Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, The Great Dictator (1940), is a singular work of satire, historically significant, and one of the greatest comedies ever made. Yet, the film’s legacy comes not only from what the film is, but what it did.

As a major motion picture starring major Hollywood players, The Great Dictator ambitiously attempted to take on Hitler during the Third Reich in comedic form. Chaplin, who wrote, directed, produced, scored, and starred in the film, used his mastery of physical comedy to satirize a subject that was virtually forbidden in the film industry at that time. Germany was Hollywood’s second largest market, and Hitler made it clear that films critical of the Third Reich would never play in German theaters. Only someone with Chaplin’s courage and clout would take on the German dictator and portray him as a dangerous clown. And remember! This was two years before the ovens of Auschwitz were ablaze.

On Wednesday, February 17, FOLCS was joined by one of the great comedy writers of the modern age, Alan Zweibel, for a Conversation on The Great Dictator. An original Saturday Night Live writer, Alan has won five Emmy Awards for his work in television, which also includes It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (which he co-created and produced) The Late Show With David Letterman and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Alan’s recent book, Laugh Lines: My Life Helping People Be Funnier, can be purchased here.

This event is produced in partnership with the New York Film Academy (NYFA).

Alan Zweibel
Comedy Writer

An original Saturday Night Live writer, Alan has won five Emmy Awards for his work in television, which also includes It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (which he co-created and produced) The Late Show With David Letterman and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

A frequent guest on all of the late night talk shows, Alan’s theatrical contributions include his collaboration with Billy Crystal on the Tony Award winning play 700 Sundays, Martin Short’s Broadway hit Fame Becomes Me, and six off-Broadway plays including Bunny Bunny – Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy which he adapted from his best-selling book.

All told, Alan has written eleven books including the 2006 Thurber Prize winning novel The Other Shulman, the popular children’s book Our Tree Named Steve, and a parody of the Haggadah titled For This We Left Egypt? that he wrote with Dave Barry and Adam Mansbach.

Alan’s humor has also appeared in such diverse publications as The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Op-Ed page, The Huffington Post and MAD Magazine. He has also penned a best selling e-book titled From My Bottom Drawer.

The co-writer of the screenplays for the films Dragnet, North, and The Story of Us, Alan has received an honorary PhD. from the State University of New York and because of the diversity of his body or work, in 2010 the Writers Guild of America, East gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to the talk shows, Alan’s also appeared in episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Law & Order, and can be seen in the documentary The Last Laugh about humor and the Holocaust; Judd Apatow’s Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, on HBO, Gilbert about the life of Gilbert Gottfried as well as the Emmy nominated CNN documentary he executive produced titled Love, Gilda Alan is currently preparing Bunny Bunny for a return to the New York stage, his cultural memoir titled Laugh Lines – My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier was recently published by Abrams Books and a movie he co-wrote with Billy Crystal titled Here Today that stars Crystal and Tiffany Haddish will be released later this year.