When German star, comedian Max Ehrlich, and his best friend, composer Willy Rosen were caught in Holland in 1942 and sent to the Westerbork Transit Camp, the commandant recognized Max and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: Every Monday night before the train leaves for Auschwitz the next morning, Max and Willy will do a cabaret. IF they are funny, they do it next week. If not — they are on the train. What followed was 18 months of the funniest cabaret in all of Europe!
Come witness the original Funny or Die.
These performances feature live music and the talents of Jake Broder (Morning Show, Silicon Valley), Conor Duffy (Superstore, Good Girls), Kerry O'Malley (Snowpiercer, Terminator Genisys), Ben Bodé (Empire Records), Leo Marks (The Maestro, All My Children), Hugo Armstrong (Stitchers), Lucy Davenport (Thor:Ragnarok, Dr. Strange), Apollo Dukakis (ER), Mike Lanahan (American Horror Story), and Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H*).
Max & Willy's Last Laugh is the true story of German comedian Max Ehrlich and his best friend, composer Willy Rosen, two of the biggest cabaret stars of 1930’s Germany who created “the greatest cabaret in Europe,” while incarcerated in Holland’s Westerbork Transit Camp. Upon their arrival, the Commandant of the camp, starstruck, said, "Max Ehrlich?! In my camp?! Such an honor! I am a huge fan of your work! Would you start a cabaret here? The train leaves for Auschwitz on Tuesday mornings, so if you perform on Monday nights, it would help with camp morale! And, if you're successful, you won't be on the train." What followed was 18 months of the funniest, sharpest, most entertaining cabaret in all of Europe, created and performed in captivity. As you can imagine, it didn't go smoothly: neither with their Nazi captors nor their fellow campmates.
Max & Willy's Last Laugh includes the actual comedy sketches, songs, and jokes written and performed by Max and Willy in the camp and discovered only 4 years ago in a forgotten manuscript smuggled out of Westerbork in 1943. For the first time in almost 80 years, an audience will experience the very sketches and songs the Westerbork captives themselves experienced when they packed that great hall every Monday night, desperate for a laugh.
Presented as a staged reading with live band in UCLA James Bridge’s Theater.
This event is made possible by the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. It is co-sponsored by Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.