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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The documentary `Comedian' provides a nuts-and-bolts, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of the stand-up comic. While it features a sea of familiar faces - Ray Romano, Gary Shandling, Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Bill Cosby - making what turn out to be little more than cameo appearances, the film focuses almost exclusively on two figures from the comedy nightclub scene: one well known, Jerry Seinfeld, and the other an up-and-coming, potential new star named Orny Adams. `Comedian' derives much of its meaning from the ironic juxtaposition of these two men. Seinfeld is a man who has managed to achieve what, for any comedian, would be the pinnacle of success fame, fortune and international celebrity status - yet he still finds himself riddled with personal doubts and feelings of inadequacy every time he gets up to perform on stage. Adams, who has yet to get that `big break,' somehow comes across as much more cocky, arrogant and self-assured than Seinfeld although Adams, too, confesses that he may indeed be a harsher critic of his own performance than are the members of his audience.
`Comedian' was originally shot on video and transferred to 35 MM film, a fact that accounts for the dark, blurry, grainy quality of the picture. Most of the film's time is spent backstage with the comics as they air their views on their chosen profession, their colleagues, their personal idols, their various demons, their need to perform, their drive for perfection and their harsh, overly critical evaluation of their own skills and talents that often lead them into bouts of serious depression (Adams seems particularly prone to such reactions). These scenes are interspersed with brief snippets of some of their stand-up routines, which, surprisingly, seem rather devoid of laughs (Seinfeld has always struck me as more funny on his TV series than he ever has been on stage). One also notices that the world of the stand-up comedian in this film is strictly an Old Boys Club. Perhaps, we will one day be treated to a sequel entitled `Comedienne' to give the distaff side of the profession its due.
`Comedian' is a very short film it runs a mere 81 minutes and, as a result, it feels a little superficial at times and even truncated at the end. We would like to see a bit more of the lives of these two men Adams, in particular, seems to disappear from the film a bit prematurely but it is a must-see for anyone interested in this unusual branch of the entertainment field. The film will make you view stand-up comedy in a whole new light.
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