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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>
"Comedian" is a documentary about crafting a career in stand-up comedy, starring and produced by Jerry Seinfeld.
My first memory of this movie's release was seeing its trailer poster - an intrusive billboard-sized mural in Mid-town Manhattan. It pictured Jerry Seinfeld awkwardly striding across a city street in a suit, microphone and stand in tow. The poster told me 'here is a superstar, a living legend of the small screen, stripped of his entourage of writers; stripped of his supporting cast of characters, his Kramers and Costanzas; sent to live among us once again and say I bet I can make you laugh.' I remember thinking 'I bet you can't' as I descended into the subway.
Perhaps I was harsh. But watching "Comedian" I learned I pale in comparison to the comic's toughest audience: himself. "Comedian" gives us a taste of the life that exists between 20 minute sets; the intimate moments of a seasoned stand-up comic, earning his weight in laughs. The movie could work on its own as a story about the unique turns that lie in wait of one pursuing a profession in comedy. But what makes "Comedian" special is the voyeuristic quality of its backdrop. We're used to Jerry Seinfeld's Seinfeld. Here we see Jerry Seinfeld's Jerry, a cool if not sometimes meekly understated professional who still gets the jitters before taking the stage at unknown Midwestern laugh-ins. "Comedian" pulls the celebrity curtain down, serving us fizzy gin and tonics with Rocks and Romanos on the side. The movie makes you feel like you are at your home town's shadiest club and comic greats are eating peanuts just a few bar stools away. Silently we mutter 'sure Jerry is performing a set tonight, but not before I buy him a cocktail.' If the movie works, we believe that Jerry Seinfeld is a working man - and we're nervous for him. Our hero, off to slay a dragon each night he performs. We wish him luck on the road, one he navigates in a beamer.
Afterword: "Comedy" is refreshing in its suggestion that accomplished stars can be working stiffs too, if their star hangs from a comic cellar's rafter. To wit, Chris Rock recounts a cutting-edge set he caught recently at a theater in Newark, N.J. The comic was a long-time favorite of his, but he didn't recognize most of the jokes. He delivered a 2 1/2 hour, uninterrupted set, a task regarded by Seinfeld in the movie as a "physical feat." The man was killing the crowd (along with Chris) with brand new material he had never heard. His name was Bill Cosby.
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