A look at the work of two stand-up comics, Jerry Seinfeld and a lesser-known newcomer, detailing the effort and frustration behind putting together a successful act and career while living a life on the road.
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Fresh from the success of his sitcom, comedian Jerry Seinfeld decided to do the unimaginable: he completely retired his stand-up act, electing to start over again by developing entirely new material. "Comedian" follows Seinfeld through this process, as he rehearses in front of small comedy club audiences, meets with fellow comics and finally appears before a national audience. Written by
Shannon Patrick Sullivan <email@example.com>
Last year I thought I had lupus, has that happened to you yet? I was on the bus and I saw an ad, "Chances are that somebody on the bus has lupus." I look around, I'm the only one on the bus.
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After the credits end, there's a short scene in which Colin Quinn tells Seinfeld a very old joke. See more »
This documentary follows Jerry Seinfeld during his efforts to become a working stand-up comedian again, after almost 15 years of absence from the stage. But even for a man his caliber, it's far from an easy job to come back on stage just like that. He's got the cheers upfront because he is a celebrity, but once the initial welcome applause is gone, it's the material that counts. But it seems behind every minute of stand-up comedy is a hundred hours of hard work, with weeks of brainstorming, writing, and trying out new material on hackling audiences. "Twenty minutes in three months", he states. Seinfeld also talks shop with a number of friends and colleagues in the business, including Robert Klein, Ray Romano, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling, Jay Leno and Bill Cosby.
Don't expect this documentary to reveal much about the private life of Jerry Seinfeld. He is self-assured and confident - no surprises there - and is always in control. He is only followed when working at his act, but we do get an occasional peek at his wife and kid, for instance before his appearance on the Tonight Show. But this documentary also shows us the struggles of Orny Adams, a young, cocky and insecure comedian, who tries to make to make his mark in show business.
Let me state this now. Orny Adams is not a funny comedian. He's not funny at all. Off-stage, he has a few funny observations, but his act is terrible. But he did invoke some sympathy with me, or empathy, so you will, with a fascinating portrait of his struggles. But I never really understood why they chose him. Obviously, the crew used him for a documentary about Seinfeld, but not on criteria based on comedic talent. To me, it was astonishing and very revealing that Seinfeld never even met Orny Adams before the filming of this project started. I think there is one scene where they meet in a club and have a short conversation. On the DVD Seinfeld casually reveals he never spoke to him again since! Not because they had an argument but probably because he is not in the least interested in Orny Adams. Jerry Seinfeld is well known for not having many friends and not mixing work and private life, but this?
Back to Orny for some final thoughts. I always wondered whether Orny actually was a real guy and not some actor? I still do think he is an actual comedian, but with a name like that? In a restaurant in Montréal, the waitress asks for his name and doesn't believe him and proclaims: "Get out of town. No mother would name her kid Orny." He insists that it is in fact his real name. Well... perhaps one mother did, or it is his stage name. I don't know. Fact is, although he's not funny at all, I liked the portrait and I liked the whole film and found this a fascinating insight in the world of the stand-up comedian. Every Seinfeld-fan has probably seen this already, but I imagine this must be an enjoyable documentary for everyone.
Camera Obscura --- 8/10
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