After ‘Seinfeld’ ended, Jerry Seinfeld wanted to return to the comedy basics in the form of stand up. After taking years off from the trade and retiring all of his material, it was going to be a difficult task to accomplish, but ‘Comedian’ follows Jerry as he builds a comedy routine from, quite literally, nothing to a full hour long set.
An unknown stand up comedian is also featured named Orny Adams who is trying to make a name for himself and break through to success. Orny has worked hard for eight years and is finally achieving what he considers to be success. These two comics go through different methods to achieve a final product, but Orny is accomplished, comfortable, and polished on stage. Still, he lacks the name recognition that Seinfeld does, but he badly wants that level of fame.
‘Comedian’ doesn’t really follow a structure except that it progresses through time. It begins when you see Jerry hop on stage to try out ten minutes of jokes, and it’s from this that he begins to build a small set of twenty minutes. This effort seems like it should only take a few days or a week, but it takes Jerry two months to do this. The interesting thing is that this is normal for comedians. When he first practices on stage, he carries a list of his jokes with him and continues to tweak and memorize the jokes through each performance. Even when he is ready to perform a long set, he is still tweaking and memorizing. This process appears to be non-stop.
Orny Adams created his set differently. He is very methodical with his act and writes jokes for hours a day. Each joke is written down and filed for later use. As the movie continues, Orny’s career progresses, and, finally, Orny receives his big break and is signed by George Shapiro (Jerry’s agent) who helps him to get onto David Letterman’s Late Show. While on this program, they make some tweaks to his set, and it throws him off. Still, he performs well, and his career begins to fast track to success which culminates in him moving to Los Angeles to work on a show for a while.
Jerry continues to build his act, and, after six months, he has nearly an hour of material. Then, he performs on Letterman and eventually tours again. However, the really interesting parts are when the comics think that they’re not funny or do something they know isn’t going to work. Their self-deprecation exists at every level and is seen in Jerry and Orny. They continue to worry about being unfunny and seem never to be satisfied with their success. These parts are what makes ‘Comedian’ great and a must see in my opinion. This film offers up a side of Seinfeld that fans have never seen before which is interesting and refreshing. As long as you don’t expect to see an episode of ‘Seinfeld’, you’ll enjoy this documentary.