The Kit Kat Klub's unnamed Master of Ceremonies, played by Joel Grey, is a mysterious but unforgettable character. His musical acts often provide a wry, subtle mockery of the Nazis, while indulging in the hedonistic attitude of the era. In some recent stage productions, in the final scene, he wears a concentration camp uniform with a yellow star and a pink triangle, denoting him as both Jewish and gay. However, in the movie, which stops well before the camps, he is far more ambiguous.
One of the most ironic subplots is the romance between Fritz and Natalia. Fritz is Jewish but pretends to be Protestant for his own protection. Ironically, he falls in love with Natalia, an openly Jewish heiress who worries that he'd be unsafe if he married her. Fritz and Natalia eventually have a Jewish wedding ceremony, but it's brilliantly framed by the M. C.'s number "If You Could See Her." He brings a gorilla onstage, explains that he's fallen in love with her, and laments that society misunderstands them. Then, he delivers the song's brutal punchline: "If you could see her through my eyes. . . she would not look Jewish at all! " This is probably the most ambiguous, controversial example of the M. C.'s humor. Is he literally comparing interreligious relationships to bestiality, agreeing with the Nazis that Jews are subhuman? Or is he mocking the Nazis for that idea? A third option is that he's noncommittal, using controversy for shock value, as many comedians do.
Satire can be a powerful tool, but by its nature, it's often misunderstood. Some viewers originally accused Kander and Ebb of antisemitism before learning that both were Jewish themselves. It can also trivialize threats, even unintentionally, by making them seem harmless. At the beginning of Trump's campaign, I was terrified by the prospect of his presidency. Eventually, satire like Alec Baldwin's impressions on SNL