A huge cast of comics are interviewed in this ambitious documentary and although some of them are successful, the filmmaker never lets this interfere with the telling of his tale. It stays dark and ironic from beginning to end and assures us time and again that, when you do stand-up, failure isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. It’s compelling viewing, with plenty of laughs, and when you meet this bunch of manic depressives you’ll understand why they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ritch Snyder hasn’t done stand-up for ten years and is about to return to the stage. Jordan Brady, the filmmaker and a comic himself, uses this as a back-drop for a series of interviews with Tim Allen, Kathy Griffin, Tom Arnold, Sarah Silverman and many more. They tell us how it was, how it is, and how it’s always going to be.
There is nothing more intriguing than listening to people open up about their flaws and, with no emotional hand-brake to hold these walking wounded back, we finally discover exactly why comedians use a live audience as their drug of choice and why they know it’s never going to get better. Whether or not the latter bothers them is a matter of opinion and sometimes it appears they do not even know themselves.
Equally fascinating is the willingness of these people to hold themselves up as targets for the sole purpose of entertaining us for a few short moments. This self-derision is carried beyond the stage, as is demonstrated when one of the comics tells us about the golden rule that you never give anyone else your microphone. If Jesus, or even Oprah, walks in, you never give it up. Never. Then he tells us how , one night, there was a drunk woman in the audience, heckling him like crazy, so he said to her “You think you’re funny?” and then he gave her the mic. He pauses, lowers his voice, and mutters “Shit, she was funny”. This comedian screwed up big time and, because he knows the story will get a laugh, keeps telling it to whoever will listen, which says it all.
These days the comics have another obstacle to contend with – the video recorder. Apparently, the goal of some is to keep goading the comedians to the point when they snap and, with the camera already rolling, it’s a race to be the first to get their victim on YouTube. So when these comedians step onto that stage every night, with nerves like bow strings, they never know for sure whether they will be able to hold steady under fire. Some manage it, but others falter and end up like Michael Richards, who is still extremely popular on YouTube but kicked off the invite list of every club booker in town.
Including Richards in this film would have been an intriguing addition but apparently he’s rather difficult to contact these days, with his last known address being somewhere close to the edge of Suicide Cliff.
Available on DVD 4th December, 2010