'Jojo Rabbit' interview: Taika Waititi and his cast on the limits of comedy

Sam AshurstContributor

The limits of comedy have been much discussed in 2019. Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge joked about the #metoo movement, Chris Morris’ terror-focused The Day Shall Come caused some debate, and Joker director Todd Phillips’ railed against ‘woke’ culture which saw Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi jump into the fray.

But it looks like conversation will carry on into the new year, with Jojo Rabbit’s mixture of hilarious comedy and intense tragedy - sometimes within the same scene - sure to raise some eyebrows when it’s released on 1 January. 

Is making Hitler a slapstick - slightly twee - character a gag too far? Yahoo Movies UK sat down with Taika Waititi and his cast to discuss if comedy should come with boundaries. 

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“Everything’s funny until it happens to you,” Alfie Allen (Finkel) says. “You should be able to find comedy in everything or that’s when we start having our thoughts taken away from us.”

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Director/star Taika Waititi (Hitler) has a slightly different take. 

“There are definitely things you shouldn’t joke about. I don’t think that Nazis are one of them. I think they’re fair game. I should check, but I think the last time I checked Nazis were still fair game in comedy,” Waititi says. 

Taika Waititi plays a Hitler Youth child's imaginary version of the Fuhrer in this bizarre comedy, which has already been divisive on the festival circuit. It's obviously the logical project to take on between Marvel behemoths. (Credit: Fox)
Taika Waititi plays a Hitler Youth child's imaginary version of the Fuhrer in this bizarre comedy, which has already been divisive on the festival circuit. It's obviously the logical project to take on between Marvel behemoths. (Credit: Fox)

But when it came to creating the tone of the film, which jokes about stuff like racism, was Waititi ever worried about getting the balance right?

“I was never worried, because I feel like this film follows in the footsteps of some really great anti-war satires and other comedies that use humour as a device to carry a deeper message, and usually those work best when they’re about war or politics.” 

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“So I wasn’t really worried about that, my main concern was that I had the tonal balance right. That always comes in the edit, we test the films a lot. ‘How does it feel? Is it too dramatic over here, is it too comedic here?’ It is a fine balancing act. I don’t want to make a straight-up comedy about this subject. I don’t want to make a straight drama either, because it’s not my style.” 

The <i>Thor: Ragnarok</i> director's new film set in Nazi Germany pushes the boundaries of comedy. Jojo Rabbit comes to cinemas on 1 January, 2020.
The Thor: Ragnarok director's new film set in Nazi Germany pushes the boundaries of comedy. Jojo Rabbit comes to cinemas on 1 January, 2020.

“Versions of this story have been told in that style, the gritty war drama, I know that stories like this have to continue to be told, and we need to find new ways of delivering that story, and sometimes you use comedy to help you do that.”

To hear what the film’s two young stars Thomasin Mackenzie (Elsa) and Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo) have to say on the subject, watch the video above. 

Jojo Rabbit is in UK cinemas on 1 January, 2020. Watch a trailer below.

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