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Punching the Clown (2009)

Winner of the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival, this realistic comedy tells the story of Henry Phillips, a hapless modern day troubadour who grinds his way through the ... See full summary »


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1 win. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Ellen Ratner ...
Wade Kelley ...
Matthew Walker ...
Matt Phillips (as Matt Walker)
Audrey Siegel ...


Winner of the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival, this realistic comedy tells the story of Henry Phillips, a hapless modern day troubadour who grinds his way through the heartland, living out of his car and singing his twisted satirical songs to anyone who will listen. After a booking mishap involving a Christian fund raiser, he decides he's hit rock bottom. Seeking to shake things up, he moves to L.A. where his luck changes overnight. Thanks less to his inept manager than to a wild case of mistaken identity, he falls backwards into a string of packed gigs, a record deal and even the promise of love. But he who lives by the whimsy of show business dies by it, and reality hits him like a fist in the face: an innocent miscommunication over a bagel brands him a neo-Nazi in the world of tabloid journalism. Luckily, somewhere between rock bottom and nowhere lies the perfect terrain for his dark and hilarious songs.

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Comedy is often misunderstood. See more »



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Release Date:

22 October 2010 (USA)  »

Box Office


$140,000 (estimated)

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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Henry: Michelagelo apparently once said, um, that if people knew how hard he worked, they wouldn't call him a genius and I think with me, it's sort of the opposite, you know. I think that if people knew how little I worked on this stuff, I don't think they would say that I suck.
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User Reviews

Hilarious movie with a great script, wonderful performances and memorable songs
8 November 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw the movie on DVD and was hooked immediately. The story is excellent. The dialog is better written than any film I've seen this year, including my favorite "The Social Network" which was too esoteric at times. Punching the Clown is a real treat. Henry Phillips (I had never heard of him, even though he's been on late night TV) is a phenomenal storyteller and singer. The movie is a good showcase of Phillips's music and stand-up show (he plays himself), but it's also much more than that. The first scene constitutes the funniest 2 or 3 minutes I've ever seen on the subject of censorship and, in a way, it just gets better from there. The characters are wonderfully true to life: the unsuccessful manager (Ellen Ratner, a supporting actor on Seinfeld) who takes Henry under her wing and sees neither how damaging her tactics are nor how Henry's success is unrelated to her efforts, the struggling actor brother (Matthew Walker) who is just a well of bitterness, the late night public radio DJ (Wade Kelley) who manages to squeeze some truth out of a comic and doesn't really care if no one is listening to his show, and so many other characters, all new faces... The film is a musical performance film and every song in it is incredibly witty and surprising. One of the songs, a ballad about bullies and nerds in school is a comical gem that anyone who struggled through high school in this country will appreciate and probably start humming on their way to work. Other songs, about relationships, life on the road, life in LA, are as beautiful as any great pop song from the 70s, but with such outlandish and clever lyrics that you just want to bring your neighbors or co-workers in to share a great laugh after a hard day's work. Some of the scenes look a little grainy and indie-like, but it doesn't keep Punching the Clown from being the best comedy I've seen in at least a few years.

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