Comedian (2002) Poster

(2002)

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7/10
Seinfeld's's struggle
JamesGriswold26 October 2006
I have watched this twice and it seems you have to personally want/need to entertain to appreciate it. The process of performing or a performance is both immensely nerve racking and ultimately very satisfying. Comedian will draw you in to that process as opposed to entertaining you as a viewer with stand-up comedy. The main quest is the pursuit of a lengthy comedy act. Seinfeld's personal struggle is not intensely dramatic or humorous but rather very compelling to you the performer; "how can I validate myself all over again when I don't need the money, what am I here for?" I would recommend this to anyone who wants to do stand-up or sketch comedy or theater, or any other live performance for that matter. If this is you then you will appreciate the process Seinfeld goes through because it is the journey back to his calling, what made Seinfeld matter to you and me.
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Fine documentary about stand-up comedy
Camera Obscura17 October 2006
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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A fun look at life as a stand-up comic (***)
Ronin4725 November 2002
I was never a big fan of "Seinfeld", though that had more to do with my natural opposition to sitcoms (laugh tracks make me cringe) than with the material in the show itself. So, by extension, I didn't think I was the biggest fan of Jerry Seinfeld himself either, but after seeing "Comedian", an intense and funny documentary about what it takes to make it in that profession, I have a newfound appreciation for him, as well as stand-up comics in general.

Stand-up comedy is one of those professions that a lot of people probably think anybody could get up there and do, but this movie proves otherwise. It's rough work entertaining people, especially in a live setting and when you're up there all by your lonesome.

The movie mainly focuses on Seinfeld as he gradually makes his comeback to the stand-up scene after years of absence, slowly compiling new material and testing it out on audiences. It's a brave format for a comedy film, because it's about HOW an act is perfected, and not just the perfect act itself. That means we're allowed to see what it looks like when jokes fall dead flat, because that is all a learning experience for a comic, no matter how long they've been doing it.

Several other comics, like Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling, and George Wallace make brief appearances, and in a nice scene near the end, Seinfeld has a good conversation with one of his idols, a warm and encouraging Bill Cosby.

Also a big plus is the cool, New York atmosphere and the soundtrack, which features songs by artists as diverse as Charles Mingus, Al Green and Bob Dylan.
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6/10
A Stand-Up Kind Of Guy
ferbs543 June 2008
After cocreating and starring for nine years in THE sitcom of the '90s, and rightfully earning hundreds of millions of dollars doing so, funnyman Jerry Seinfeld did not do what I would have done; namely, lay in a hammock by the ocean for the rest of his life. To his great credit, Seinfeld decided to go back to what he loves most: doing stand-up material in front of an audience. Director Christian Charles' 2002 documentary "Comedian," it must be stated, is not so much a performance film as it is a primer in how very difficult it is to put an hour's worth of "killer" material together. This is not a Jerry Seinfeld biography, but rather a collection of glimpses into the lives of working comics. During the course of the film, as Jerry painstakingly--and sometimes painfully--puts his new act together, he talks to such established names as Jay Leno, Gary Shandling, Bill Cosby (his childhood hero, apparently), Robert Klein (whose joke about Florida may be the film's funniest) and Ray Romano. For contrast, perhaps half the film is taken up by the travails of a talented and cocky aspiring comic named Orny Adams, whose various struggles really show us how difficult the comedy business can be. I mean, here it is, more than six years since Orny's Letterman debut, and he is still hardly a household name, right? The net result for most viewers will most likely be a realization of how hard it is to just get up there and tell jokes; forget about making it big in the business! On the down side, "Comedian" features excessively choppy editing, overlapped dialogue that is often hard to make out, and just not enough actual performance footage. The film does have a cumulative effect, however, and the sum does wind up equalling more than its many jagged parts. "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
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8/10
Blood, sweat and jokes.
jotix1008 December 2002
This documentary is for someone who thinks stand up comedy is easy. No one has an idea what goes on behind the scenes, even the great Jerry Seinfeld, who after a hit TV series decides he wants to go back to the places that gave him his break.

We can feel the pain of newcomers such as Orny Adams who is trying to begin a career as a comedian. His presence in the film makes one understand the frustrations these actors go through on a nightly basis wherever they face a public that wants to be entertained with non stop jokes. It is very hard indeed to be able to do it every time.

The documentary is very fast in the sure hands of Christian Charles who obviously has an eye for capturing the comedians at their most vulnerable points.

We get to see a shaky Seinfeld trying new material. Sometimes he is good, but sometimes he really stink. He has been away from the scene for such a long time that it takes him a while to find his feet. His scenes with Bill Cosby, the great Robert Klein and others are the best things going with the film.

People in general will have a second view after seeing this movie about the funny men in comedy clubs.
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9/10
Birth of a Joke
Andy (film-critic)10 March 2005
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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6/10
Interesting to performers
irish238 September 2008
While the box promises hilarious comedy, the video it holds delivers a solid documentary about what it takes to be a class act in stand-up comedy, both as an up-and-comer and as someone trying reinvent himself.

Orny Adams is in need of serious mental health help. He consistently goes to pieces and is tortured by his inner demons.

Jerry Seinfeld, on the other hand, shows how someone with a basic sense of self-esteem and a rewarding personal life deals with the nerve-wracking ordeal that is "creating a compelling live show."

The picture documents this process carefully and gives good insights for performers in all genre. It's not a laugh riot, and it's -just- compelling enough to watch the whole way through, but it's not something one needs to see twice.
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Interesting backstage glimpse at a comic's life
Roland E. Zwick3 November 2002
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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8/10
"Comedian" is a documentary about crafting a career in stand-up comedy, starring and produced by Jerry Seinfeld.
marc_aqui16 November 2005
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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Stand-up documentary's a let-down
gotham237 March 2004
What a disappointment.

The problem here is not that I was expecting something like the show. I understood what this was about going into the theatre. It's not "Seinfeld" the TV show. The whole point of this documentary is that Jerry's hit the club circuit again, and that he's trying out a whole new style of comedy rather than the "Humorous observations about everyday life" that made him famous. The problem is that it's simply not a very good documentary. It's erratic and disjointed. It was marketed as a documentary about Jerry Seinfeld, but instead we're forced to spend half the movie listening to a nobody who fails to capture our attention or sympathy in any way. Towards the end, Jerry drops in on Bill Cosby and we don't really know why. Even worse, the conversation between the two is awkward, rambling, boring, and offers absolutely no new insights into either man.

A documentary should teach you something. When you walk out of the theatre, you should have some new insights into the subject matter. By that standard, this film is a complete failure. In the end, all it really tells us is that being a stand up comedian on the club circuit isn't easy. But is there anybody who didn't already know that?
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3/10
Maybe better for HBO.
yomike4 November 2002
I just got back from seeing, "Comedian". It was...alright. It kept me looking at the screen. Its just not the type of thing I like to go pay $7 to see.

Now don't get me wrong, it'd make a great HBO feature. If this were something I was watching on TV, i'd be hooked right in. It gives an amazing look at what comics go through before and after getting on stage. It will interest anyone who likes watching comics.

But when I go to the movies, I like to be entertained. I'm not there to be educated. Now I know what its like for Jerry Seinfeld before he goes out on stage....great. But truthfully, I'd rather just laugh at his jokes than worry about any of that.

One more thing: With the bad attitude Onry Adams has; I'd expect to see him taking my order from Burger King before I see his HBO special. He wasn't funny. He's the kind of person that you love to hate.
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4/10
Not for the laughs.
Charlie W1 November 2002
As a Brit in the U.S.A. I've largely missed the hype over the last couple of decades about Jerry Seinfeld and his television show. The Seinfeld TV show was an acquired taste to me, It took me a long couple of months to understand the premise of the show, and it's method of inducing humourous situations. It always seemed like Seinfeld was creating laughs through pain, like he was pulling himself up by his own barbed-wire-bootstraps, bloody fingers struggling to bear the weight of his own ambition.

To avoid overplaying the negative things about this film I feel compelled to explain first of all what this film is not. It is not another venture in the Seinfeld campaign of making you laugh. It does not explain how Seinfeld developed his humour, or how his Jokes come into being. It does not give you a real taste of the life, the trials, and the pain of being a funnyman.

Going with the wrong expectations is tantamount to a ruination of an evening to your local cinema.

The Film charts some choice exploits of Mr Seinfeld, and one of his cohorts, a Mr Orny Adams, and their interactions with other comedians, their audience, and the camera eye.

Adams is a 29-year-young aspiring joke-boy, he's arrogant (and proudly so) and he's terribly insecure. If this film doesn't kill his career, I'll be surprised. Throughout this movie journal with Mr Adams he displays a huge amount of his personality, and unfortunately little of his comedy. He complains about his audience, whines frequently about how hard it is being a young comedian, bitches to his manager about the comments of one of his contemporaries (despite them being encouraging and well-intended) and generally displays how unpleasant of a person he is. I think if Mr Adams views this movie now he would heartily wish that they had displayed less of his personality and more of his comedy.

The number of jokes audible in this film that aren't drowned out by the liberally inter-spliced Jazz soundtrack are likely numerable on the fingers of one hand, and one is left with the impression that this was almost entirely intended as a message to the rest of us who haven't experienced the efforts involved in making people laugh equipped only with a microphone, a microphone stand, and a bar stool, a message that says `Dammit, My soul is bleeding!, Who are you not to laugh?'. Seinfeld even voices almost this exact sentiment in one part of the routine that is featured in the movie, and the idea that Seinfeld only believes this jokingly is too much of a stretch to believe.

I can't escape the feeling that both Mr Seinfeld and Mr Adams hold contempt for the general public who watch their act, probably more so for those that don't. I'd even go as far as saying that given the opportunity they would throw full blown temper tantrums of resentment and anger against those who have decried their chosen professions as `Soft' or claimed them not to be `Real jobs'.

During one featured part of Mr Adams routine he begins by informing the audience that he is single, by his own choice, to which the inevitable reply comes back from a female in that audience `Are you Gay?' Mr Adams takes this as a terrible slight and even takes this after the show as something worthy of remark to his mother when he informs her that he is going to be featured in a Comedy Festival in Montreal.

If you like mainstream stand-up this film will make you laugh a couple of times. It maybe will make you feel as if you are getting inside the `Comedy Scene'; but it won't make you curl up with hilarity, and it won't give you stunning insights into the worlds of Mr Seinfeld or Mr Adams.

My advice is to wait for the video to come out if you are a fan of Mr Seinfeld, if you are not fond of his style of humour avoid this movie. If you don't know Mr Seinfeld at all this is not a good way to be introduced to him.

In my opinion Mr Seinfeld wants you to feel like you are getting in touch with the legendary figure that he feels he will become. I think he's a funny man, but this film was an misdirected effort, an effort that was not for the laughs.
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9/10
The Story of a genius and a hack.
Sirus_the_Virus7 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The documentary Comedian is basically the story of a genius and a hack. The genius, being Jerry Seinfeld. Come on, he is. He did the best TV show ever created, he is such a funny guy. He's the richest comedian in the world actually.

The hack being a guy named Orny Adams. I know, that is a horrible name. Orny Adams is a hack. He's not funny, he is too sensitive when people don't lime his material. He thinks he's so funny. On an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry is heckled by a woman named Toby. Later on in the episode, George convinces Jerry to go to her office and heckle her. I can picture Orny Adams doing that. " You can't be in this business if you can't take it". Well, clearly Orny Adams shouldn't be in the business. Cause he can't take anything.

Seinfeld is obviously a genius. Orny though, is a cocky, ass hole. Seinfeld , as it shows here, thinks of himself of not being good enough." I have no excuse, I just wasn't good". That is something that he says in this movie. Orny on the other hand is the exact opposite. From the very first scene you can tell.

The film, is about two comedians. The two I have been talking about the entire review. How hard it is to make people laugh and how annoying and cocky some people are in the world. I was more than glad to see little of Orny, cause he was so annoying.

The film, isn't entirely funny. I know, a genius comedian and some other genius comedians are in it. You'd expect a documentary about comedians to be funny right? Well, I didn't exactly. And do you know what, it wasn't really. But it's very interesting. and it's good to see Jerry Seinfeld back. No matter who says otherwise, Orny, you blow, Seinfeld, you're the best there is. And after seeing Seinfeld in this, the Bee movie, and other things, I have one thing to say. More.

Comedian:A-
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9/10
An Uplifting Tale of Rebirth and Triumph of the Human Spirit
III_Max_III8 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Follow the construction of this film closely and you will see that it is much more than a documentary of stand-up comedy. Notice, for example, how the ending is a beginning. The final word, "thanks" is precisely the advice given to Orny--the anti-Jerry of this story. Notice the film move directly into the credits, accompanied by Susannah McCorkle's heart-wrenching version "Waters of March", itself Jobim's testimony, from the perspective of early Autumn, that life is a journey. The photos that rotate under the credits, like an iPhoto photo album, are close-up studies of scenes that any comic would immediately recognize as "Comedy Club". Preceding this was Steely Dan's "Deacon's Blues" a song about a suburban New York kid who dreams of leaving the suburbs for the exciting life of show business in the city. Indeed, the choice of soundtrack numbers is worthy of Woody Allen. This movie is worth watching a few times to see how adeptly the film-makers juxtaposed Jerry and Orny in order to make this tale of rebirth. This is very, very good film-making. I only give it 9 out of 10 stars because throughout the film the dialog recording is not as clean and clear as my old ears require. Perhaps this would have been an impossibility, given the documentary nature of this film. Nevertheless, I had to go back and watch it with "English for the hearing impaired" selection in order to catch the dialog.
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5/10
Should have been better
kolyanbogie29 June 2003
When I saw this at Blockbuster I chose it over all the other titles I wanted to see. After all, I spotted Jerry Seinfeld as one of the funnier comedians on Letterman, long before his hit show. I love showbiz backstage scenes, etc. What a disappointment this was. I wasn't even interested enough to want to watch the entire thing. Orny isn't very funny, and Jerry's material pales next to his old stuff. What happened? A hit show and zillions of dollars and you lose your knack? This movie needed longer periods of standup, and interviews lasting at least a few minutes. Instead we get snippets, MTV style, that don't add up to much.
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2 massive and unrecoverable flaws
robototron4 March 2004
This is a well-made documentary, that unfortunately is derailed by two fatal flaws:

1. Aside from Jerry Seinfeld, Orny Adams is another comedian featured in this film (though you wouldn't know it from the DVD cover); and he's featured pretty heavily (i'd say it's roughly 60 percent Jerry Seinfeld, and 40 percent Orny Adams). Orny Adams is not funny. Orny Adams is not sympathetic. Orny Adams is not interesting or complex or compelling. Every moment that Orny Adams is on the screen is every moment you, the viewer, will be repulsed. He is arrogant and ungrateful. And when you hear his material, you have to wonder just where the hell his sense of entitlement came from. By all rights, this film should have ruined his career in this field. If it did, then maybe it IS worth it.

2. By the end of the movie, there is one universal thing you can understand about stand up comedians (at least the ones featured in this film): They all have a contempt for their audience. It's disappointing, because even though we rationally understand that we don't really know Jerry, or Colin Quinn, we DO feel like there's something familiar. But, in this film, the audience is so repeatedly and harshly criticized, it's appalling. When the audience is responsive, Jerry Seinfeld mocks them for having the notion that they can relate to the comedy. Colin Quinn makes a comment about how being comfortable as a comedian means that you make the audience laugh, but you don't care about them laughing. And yet, the audience members are the first ones blamed for poor performances. Over and over again, the audience is called idiots, or worse. And while the comedians continually cut down the audience (whether as a comedic device, or out of true malice), the audience is crucified if they attempt any criticism.

The only moments of introspection and tenderness are when comedians are either talking to each other, or comedians of even higher stature. So, while the audience is being ridiculed and belittled and blamed for the comedians' poor jokes, Seinfeld shares a very poignant with Bill Cosby, who rattles off some cliche and rambling sentiment about performing. Seinfeld responds by saying that it is one of his greatest joys to be able to know Cosby. Never is there even a fraction of this appreciation for the paying and appreciative audience. Perhaps the comedians in this film would be most happy performing for each other in some Algonquin Roundtable setup.

Well made, but its own material is its own worst enemy. I think the same can be said for Orny Adams' career, but that's aside from the point.
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Disappointing
roy-7613 November 2002
If you are a fan of the sitcom or his stand-up work, you will be disappointed. If you want to break into the comedy business, this is for you. While it shows an interesting side of this tough business, it would have played better as a segment on 60 minutes. I love his show and his routines but this movie left me feeling that I wasted my time.
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4/10
Wanted a good meal and was handed a naked leaf of lettuce.
I like Jerry, his humour appeals to me. But what the hell was going on in this pseudo-documentary? Jerry with his private jet at his disposal is executive producer and doesn't spring for a cinematographer to take this out of the realm of a home movie - poorly shot, dimly lit and so badly cut I felt a migraine coming on. He wants our sympathy, all these comedians do, whether multi-millionaires (Cosby, Leno) or not. Their angst over their material is palpable. One up and coming comedian is depicted and his selfishness and poor attitude does not engender any warmth whatsoever. A waste of film. No meat, no potatoes in any of it. A hollow empty feeling. 4 out of 10. Avoid.
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6/10
50/50
Doug Burr4 December 2017
This is a documentary which covers two stand up comedians; Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams. It shows just how difficult a job being a stand up comedian must be. You get to see some great comedians like Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Bill Cosby and Garry Shandling. My only real criticism is that about 1/3 maybe even 1/2 of the documentary covers Orny Adams. I think they wanted to get a newer lesser known comic to contrast with the already well established Seinfeld. I think this was a mistake. I had no idea who Orny was. He really is not that funny and most importantly he is very unlikable. He is cocky, rude, insecure and already very angry and bitter. All of the stuff with Jerry and the other comics is great though. If you just fast forward all of the Orny parts it is a great documentary.
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10/10
Must see
Parker Lewis17 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Seinfeld was a flagship of NBC's Must See TV, and this documentary about Jerry Seinfeld (and Orny Adams) is must see for sure even if you never watched Seinfeld.

Even though Mr Seinfeld was on top after his hit series Seinfeld, and wouldn't have to worry about paying the bills or flying coach, this documentary detailed the insecurity he had in rebooting his stand-up career. I think in the documentary someone said that an aspiring stand-up comic is given only a minute to prove their worth on stage before the audience turns on you (or turns away). Jerry's mega-fame only gave him three minutes believe it or not to demonstrate to the fickle stand-up crowd he has what it takes.

What surprised me was how the audience and stand-up staff didn't get all celebrity starry-eyed when they saw Mr Seinfeld.

I also liked the Orny Adams subplot, as he seeks to establish a footing. It's good to see him doing well, and playing the coach in Teen Wolf, the TV series.

The director's commentary is definitely worth listening to.
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7/10
like Seinfeld
SnoopyStyle25 August 2015
What does somebody do after ending one of the cultural icons of the 90s? If it's Jerry Seinfeld, he continues his stand up. He decides to throw out his old material and start writing new stuff. It's months of work as he slowly build up a new set. In a secondary story, Orny Adams is a struggling 29 year old stand up comic. He's confident but neurotic about his lack of success. He wonders if life is passing him by.

I like going inside of Jerry's standup life behind the stage and talking to other comics. This is good as a bit of behind of scene documentary. It doesn't go too much into his personal life which is perfectly fine. I doubt it's crazy and wild. The little glimpses are normal and it's unlikely to be relevant. When Chris Rock talks about Crosby, it's electric. Of course, there's a whole new connotation.

The second story with Orny is a distraction. He's a bundle of nerves and arrogance. If they want to add a second comic, I want someone at Jerry's level. I don't want to be mean but I don't really care about him. I don't wish him ill and I'm excited seeing him with some success. However, his complains annoy me a little.
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6/10
More or less a concert film
wandereramor3 July 2014
Believe it or not, there was once a time when the world didn't know that stand-up comedians were all deep and self-loathing people. A decade before podcasts and FX shows would smother us with comedians' suffering geniuses, the documentary film Comedian set out to show that stand-up comedy, far from being a fun hobby, is a difficulty

The film does so by following two comedians -- Jerry Seinfeld, who was "as big as it gets", and the up-and-coming Orny Adams. Contrary to my expectations, Seinfeld was relatively likable, while the struggling young guy turned came off as a cocky hack. In theory Adams could make for a great documentary character, like the megalomaniac Troy Duffy of Overnight, and there are certainly hilariously clueless moments (folders labeled "JEWISH JOKES" and "DATING JOKES" stand out). But the film is never really sure how to deal with his narrative and ends up forgetting it entirely by the end.

Seinfeld's portions would have made a great 20-minute short, but as a feature-length documentary Comedian doesn't really go deep enough into the creative process. There are only so many times that we can hear that comedy is hard work. Filmmaking is hard work too, and a little more of it would have made this more than a watchable but inessential travelogue.
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7/10
Dying is Easy! Comedy is Hard!
Syl10 March 2013
Jerry Seinfeld is the major headliner here after leaving his hit comedy series, Seinfeld, after 9 seasons on the air. He returns to the stage to be a stand up comic. This documentary uncovers the lives of stand up comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno who doesn't touch his Tonight Show salary. Leno would rather be a comic than be rich in reality. He works a 150 shows and the Tonight Show as well. Chris Rock is surprising when he reveals his admiration for Bill Cosby's live show of 2 hours and 20 minutes on stage without intermission. We find Orny Adams to be a little arrogant but an up and coming comic. Jerry Seinfeld has returned home to the stage of stand up comedy where you spend nights at the comedy clubs in New York City, Los Angeles, and even West Orange, New Jersey. Stand up comics spend every moment trying to perfect the craft of delivering the jokes, telling stories, and delivering the punchlines all for laughs from the audience.
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More than a documentary, a portrait in on man's love of an art form.
jerrodlwilliams4 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
While "The Late Shift" tells the behind-the-scenes story of the battle for the coveted role of host of the Tonight Show after Johnny Carson's retirement, depending on your view of the world, the film, a docu-drama, may leave you forever seeing Jay Leno as a petty, ambitious, and ruthless; and as having forced Carson's premature retirement. You may also come away with the conclusion that Jay, a hard-working professional entertainer, fought for, and won, the jewel of his profession that un-sympathetic NBC executives dangled before him at the expense of David Letterman, who had faithfully served them for years on their implicit promise of the highest prize they could give–the job of hosting the Tonight Show.

As a result of the well-publicized (and over dramatized) war for the Tonight Show job, Jay no doubt gained many fans but lost many more. Surely millions of Americans (even with the recovery in ratings Jay enjoyed after the drop that followed his initial installation as host) continue to blame him for the loss of their nightly guest into the bosom of their homes. But to truly understand Jay's campaign for the hosting position you must view his fight after seeing him in the Jerry Seinfeld documentary "Comedian." Viewing Jay's life, and the life of the stand-up comic, from the behind the curtain standpoint the documentary provides, will permanently absolve Jay of any perceived wrong-doing in connection with the Tonight Show.

"Comedian" ostensibly follows Seinfeld's foray back into the world of the "working" stand-up after ending his record setting television series. Since everyone knows Seinfeld could have easily, and expected that he would, rest on his laurels from leading "the best comedy in television history," its easy to think a film documenting his return to stand-up as an attempt at self-aggrandizement. The film shows that Seinfeld's return to stand up does not come from a desire to give a gift in return to a first love that gave him more than it ever could have promised.

And the film itself is much more than an homage to his love. The film is a window into the craft itself and a sometimes brutal exposition of the people who love her. That love is no more evident in any of the films' participants–truly the legends of the art–than in Jay Leno. His love for his art exonerates Jay for any hurt or jealousy remaining from his ascension to the throne of comedy and raises him to a national treasure in American entertainment. Although Jay has announced his own retirement from Tonight Show host, I can only pray his departure is on his own terms and not accelerated by illness. Good luck, Jay.
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