Humor and the Holocaust.
Updated: Aug 3
If you’ve had a peek at the story mentioned on my home page, you’ll notice that “The Uniform” fits neatly into the holocaust thriller genre. I’ll admit, it’s a pretty grim world. The question is, does the genre allow for humor? Assuming we’re not talking about farce which might insult readers and audiences, I would argue: yes, humor is permitted.
A bit of confession. “The Uniform” began as a screenplay. I showed it to my one-time screenplay agent who felt a couple moments of wit in the story undermined its tone and made it less worthy of representation. That’s a legitimate point. He’s entitled to his opinion and his standards. After all, he’d have to sell it.
Let me point out “Life Is Beautiful,” certainly an exception and a very effective story with its mix of humor and concentration camp horror. I know people who would argue against it because of the rule against varying tone. But people who favor rule-making will always point out exceptions to justify the rules instead of the originality.
As a rule, the screenwriting world has too many rules, especially the one that bans humor. And these days, the movie business doesn’t make room for much outside of the fantasy world. But I felt strongly enough that the thriller aspect of “The Uniform” made it worth telling. So I decided to reconfigure it as a novel. When I did adapt it, I felt the need even more strongly that the story would benefit from a bit of comic relief. Look at it this way. As a reader, when you’re down in the weeds with the tangle of grisly images, cruel acts and unrelenting deprivation, it helps to have a light moment of counter-balance to carry readers forward.
You may argue that the holocaust is an exception, and you’d be right. But not so right that you wouldn’t allow for brilliant compromises like “Trainspotting,” “Fargo,” “In Bruges,” “Get Out,” “Jo Jo Rabbit,” or “Bad Santa.” Where do you come down on the humor/horror tone question?