Carla Zilbersmith, the subject of John Zaritsky’s latest documentary, Leave Them Laughing, passed away on Tuesday, May 18. Zilbersmith was a California-based stand-up comedian and singer who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2007. The documentary, which won the Hot Docs Special Jury Award for a Canadian feature, focuses on Zilbersmith’s will to maintain her sense of humor despite her failing health.
Oscar-winning director Zaritsky paid for the film out of his own pocket, with help from Magic Flute Films producer Montana Berg, after reading a quote from Zilbersmith about how much it ‘sucks’ to have a disease named for a baseball player since she hates baseball. Throughout her career Zilbersmith wrote plays, songs, scripts and one-woman shows and the film on her life followed her over six weeks as she continued to sing and perform stand-up comedy despite her debilitating disease. For more on the project, click here.