Greetings again from the darkness. We all want to be funny. Making people laugh allows for an immediate connection … plus it just feels good to make someone else happy. Co-directors Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood show us the dark side (or at least the backside) of comedy through a series of black and white filmed interviews with dozens of stand-up comedians. In this age of political correctness, Chris Rock explains that there is only one group who says what they want to say: stand-up comedians.
It plays not so much as “how to become a comedian”, but rather a therapy session for those who already are. It’s loosely structured into segments that provide very specific insight and real life stories on: the first time on stage, life on the road, dealing with hecklers, the devastation of bombing, how to connect with an audience, and what it’s like to be “on” or really kill it.
The list of participants is too long to list here, but includes such stalwarts as the aforementioned Mr. Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Lewis, Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, Billy Connolly, and Dave Attell. Those at the top of their profession open up about what it takes and how they made it. Think “Take a Parent to School Day”, without the societal filter or peer pressure. These folks spend most of their waking hours looking outward for material, but here they are generous enough to look inward so that we might better understand their craft.
A diverse cross-section of comedians provide examples of racism, sexism and most any other ism. There is also the admission that a need/desire for acceptance exists pretty much across the profession. The struggles and challenges make up the experience which is vital to the growth and survival of a comedian … and maybe even what strands of sanity they possess. We hear stories of writing and re-writing jokes over and over again for years, before finally hitting on the right wording and delivery. We learn Smartphones often contain pages of notes on ideas and partial jokes, and that pain on stage often leads to a better act.
Jerry Seinfeld produced a documentary in 2002 entitled Comedian, and it dealt with the rigors of honing the act in front of audiences, and when combined with this project, we are reminded that comedy is at its best when it is about SOMETHING (fertile ground these days) … and that every comedian gets knocked down – but then gets up again (tip of the cap to Chumbawamba). The film is dedicated to the late Garry Shandling (who also appears in the film) and leaves us with the thought that “the laugh is your reward as a comedian”. And that’s pretty sweet.