JEFF ROSS in a promo for his Netflix show 'Historical Roasts' .
(photo credit: NETFLIX)
American comedian Jeff Ross defended his decision to target Anne Frank in an episode of his new Netflix show, Historical Roasts.
Speaking in a podcast interview released on Tuesday, Ross said he was proud of the show, but somewhat hurt by the backlash.
“I knew there’d be some backlash, and it does hurt, because you want the people closest to the story of Anne Frank, who lived it, to love it,” Ross told The Daily Beast’s Last Laugh podcast this week. “I’m a Jewish guy, grew up in New Jersey, family of kosher caterers. I’ve certainly had my share of Hebrew school training, and I’ve seen all the movies, and I’ve been to the Holocaust museums around the world.”
Ross said that – despite appearances to the contrary – “It’s not like I’m coming at this in a cavalier way. We put a lot of time and thought into it. Our very diverse writer’s room learned a lot about Anne Frank as we were writing this episode.”
The six episodes in the first season of Historical Roasts hit Netflix late last month. The show took on Abe Lincoln, Freddie Mercury, Cleopatra, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Anne Frank, Ross said in the interview. “And the only ones complaining are the Jews.”
Frank, played by Rachel Feinstein, was “roasted” by Adolf Hitler, portrayed by Gilbert Gottfried. Ire at the show was focused on several jokes in particular, including Gotffried as Hitler saying:
“Everyone knows you as a hero and a best-selling author, but to me you’ll always be little number 825060,” as well as “of all the accounts that I’ve read, Anne, your book is by far the most flammable.”
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam called the episode “tasteless satire.”
In the podcast interview this week, Ross said that casting Gottfried – a Jewish character actor known for his shrill voice – as Hitler was “the first call I made.”
“I wanted Hitler to be silly,” Ross said. “I was channeling something I once heard Mel Brooks say, which is essentially: ‘You can’t take back the lives lost, but you can seek some revenge through ridicule.’ By making Hitler and the Nazis a joke, I think that’s a victory.”
In the series itself, Ross noted, the character of Frank tells the character of Hitler: “The greatest revenge, Hitler, is the fact that you’re being portrayed by the loudest, most annoying Jew we could find.”
Despite his pride in the episode, Ross admitted that some of the criticism had affected him.
“What hurts is people in – mostly in Amsterdam, where the story of Anne Frank took place – there were complaints from different groups, saying that this is not the proper way to learn about the Holocaust, through a comedy show,” he said. “And I agree! That’s not my goal. Not everybody can go to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Not everybody can travel to Auschwitz.”
But, Ross said, it was still important for him to feature Frank in his Netflix series.
“My show is for people who would never even know the story,” he said. “I wanted to keep her name and story alive. So many people won’t even know who she is anymore.”
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