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.
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>
This was a very good documentary. I have read several scathing reviews on this film, but for my wife and me, we enjoyed it. Living in a small town that does not have the luxury of a comedy club, it really impressed us to see very famous comedians still getting up on the small stage to tone, build, and master their craft. I understand that this probably doesn't happen every day in NYC and that there are months that go by without anyone famous walking into the club, but just imagine sitting there enjoying an adult beverage, and in comes Jerry wanting to explain the ludicrousness of life. To me that would be amazing. To get back to the documentary though, I realize that this is a prime example of staging in the documentary world. I know that these were not random events, but instead set up to show the "birth" of a joke. For that, I think it angered some people, for me, and only in this film, did it work. What I think was to show the hardships of being a comedian in today's society, actually transformed into giving Jerry Seinfeld this platform to show his ability, his human nature, and his hardships of building a new act. It is a rather humbling experience, as we get to see this very human person unfold before our eyes. We can feel the tension that he feels before every show, the nerves that we would think would be non-existent with a person like Jerry, is actually still alive and kicking. It is a beautiful film that perfectly captures the world of which I knew nothing about.
What I was very impressed with in this documentary is that they were able to find someone that was a direct opposite of Jerry and give us a direct counter-point to the stand-up world. That person, Orny Adams, perhaps revealed too much about himself, which only hurt his ability in the long run. Whereas Jerry seemed very open to the audience, very approachable to everyone, Orny was in the game for the money, wealth, and power only. You can see this whenever someone talks during one of Orny's shows. It is always good to be proud of what you do, but never hurt the people that decide your fate. It is always the audience's response that will make or break you as a comedian, and I never felt that Orny understood this. Jerry did, and that is why his shows seemed to always be better received. Sure, he was Jerry Seinfeld, but even when he was making fun of someone, it seemed in jest, and not anger. With Orny, it was anger.
I normally do not do this, but I would also like to give credit to those that designed this DVD. It was literally packed with extras that only helped build more excitement for this film. For example, you cannot help but laugh at Martin Short and his portrayal of Jiminy Glick. You also cannot help but laugh at the way that he interviews his guests. This was just another budding example of how well Jerry can take a joke, and how Orny just will never succeed in this business. Glick plays off with Jerry, continually insulting and praising at the same time. With Orny, it is nothing but insults, and I don't think Orny understands this. He has no respect for the field or the profession, and actually gives it this very dark cloud. You are a comedian for the people, not for the wealth. Whatever follows is great, but you need to always respect the people that put you there. Orny will not, that is why he is not good at what he does. But, back to the DVD, it is loaded with extras that I think are really interesting to watch. More from Letterman and the notes of a joke just seemed to fit well with everything else.
Overall, I was very impressed with this film. While some will argue that it is nothing but a way to cash in on Seinfeld's status, I thought that it showed this world that is difficult, and not as easy as everyone else may think. I went into this film not knowing much about the world of comedians, but left with a whole new respect for people in the trade (except for Orny). I recommend this film to anyone that is looking for a good laugh or for anyone even considering getting into the comedian profession. This is a light-hearted look into a very difficult field that is still hard even for those that have made millions from it. I was impressed, and I think you will be as well!
Grade: ***** out of *****
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