HISTORY This Week
Dirty Dancing in the Borscht Belt
August 17, 1987. On the red carpet in New York City, it’s the premier of a new movie: Dirty Dancing. The story is set in the sunburnt Shangri-La of New York’s Catskills resort region. The movie will introduce millions to the place that some call the Jewish Alps. "Disneyland with knishes." The Sour Cream Sierras. The Borscht Belt. Ironically, Dirty Dancing arrives as the heyday of the Catskills resort is ending. But how does its culture live on? And how did its signature style of Jewish humor make the leap to Hollywood, where it would fundamentally change American comedy?
Special thanks to our guests: Julie Budd, John Conway, Jeremy Dauber, Elaine Grossinger Etess, Bill Persky, Larry Strickler, and Alan Zweibel. You can learn more about Jewish humor in Dauber’s book, Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.