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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
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.
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.
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 *****
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.
`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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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' participantstruly the legends of the artthan 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.