Singer-actress-comedian Carla Zilbersmith's death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on Monday at her home in Berkeley came less than two weeks after a documentary about her, "Leave Them Laughing," had its world premiere at the Hot Docs international documentary festival in Toronto.
The film by Academy Award-winning director John Zaritsky won the Special Jury Prize for Canadian documentary.
(A trailer for the film can be viewed at www.leavethemlaughingfilm.com/blog/demo)
Zaritsky told The Times that he first heard about Zilbersmith in late 2008 when he read one of her jokes about dying in a Canadian newspaper's end-of-year list of memorable quotes.
He went on to find samples of her singing and comedy performances on YouTube and then "discovered this beautifully written blog of hers" -- www.carlamuses.blogspot.com -- before speaking to her about doing the documentary.
Zaritsky said he describes "Leave Them Laughing" as a " 'musical comedy about dying' because it includes numerous jokes by Carla about dying and becoming disabled and also it has loads of songs that she wrote and performs in the documentary."
But the film is also poignant, he acknowledged, "because it's based on her blog. Interspersed with all the music and the comedy are pretty insightful blog entries she wrote about the process of dying and facing death that are quite moving."
Click here to read the complete obituary.
-- Dennis McLellan
Photo: Carla Zilbersmith performing at the Coronet Theatre in West Hollywood in 2006. Credit: Michael Lamont / Coronet Theatre