Jews make up 2.4 percent of the U.S. population, yet, since the days of vaudeville, they have comprised a disproportionate number of comedians in the entertainment industry. A Gift for Laughter gets under the skin of Jewish American comedy, exploring the ways it has both shaped and reflected American culture.
Phase of Support: Production
Mark Jonathan Harris - Director
Mark Jonathan Harris is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and Emeritus Distinguished Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Among the many documentaries he has written, produced and/or directed are The Redwoods, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary (1968); The Long Way Home, Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary (1997); and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2000 and was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for permanent preservation in the National Film Registry. Foster, which he wrote and directed, aired on HBO in 2019 and was nominated for Best Documentary Screenplay by the Writers Guild of America. He is also the author of five award-winning children’s novels and a new collection of short stories, Misfits.
Ben Thum - Producer
Ben Thum conceived and developed the original concept for A Gift For Laughter. He is a veteran radio and TV broadcaster and producer. He produced, wrote and directed Alleycracker: The Story of Handball for ESPN. He was the creator/producer of KQED-TV’s The Rick Reynolds Show, a late night talk program in San Francisco. Ben has won the Los Angeles Times Golden Mike award for his interview series with comedians George Carlin, Mort Sahl, Carl Reiner and numerous other comics. He was a morning radio personality in L.A. and San Francisco for many years and is a nationally known narrator of films and commercials.