Such is the case of “Comedian” (2002); the documentary, directed by Christian Charles, about stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and up-and-coming stand-up comic Orny Adams.
Seinfeld’s part of “Comedian” chronicles his return to stand-up and his attempts to create, from scratch, an entire new hour’s worth of material.
One of the most telling parts of Seinfeld’s approach to building a new act is when he totally loses his train of thought — mid-routine — and refuses to bail on the bit, but simply stand in the middle of the stage at the Gotham Comedy Club, almost Kramer-esque, racking his brain trying to remember the point, the punch line, of this three-minute chunk of material. The audience first laughs at the awkward moment and then begins to laugh because a multimillionaire comedian is flailing. Finally, a woman, who must not realize who Seinfeld is judging by her accent, asks, “Is this your first gig?”
The audience roars with laughter.
Seinfeld looks at her with a wry smile and says, “Yes.”
In that moment you know Seinfeld is committed to his craft and the biggest comics in the world can, from time to time, totally bomb.
Adams is the cliché of clichés when it comes to what a stand-up comic is supposed to be — manic, neurotic, and self-obsessed. If you don’t laud Adams with constant praise and worship, he sees it as the greatest and most unforgivable slight.
He’s self-obsession is understandable, but it is a bit annoying to watch.
“Comedian” is littered with cameos of famous, and not-so-famous, stand-up comedians. It’s one of the most interesting and frustrating parts about “Comedian.” None of these comics are identified during the film, only in the end credits. If you don’t know who these guys are — and all of the comedians in “Comedian” are guys — an interesting layer of the film is lost.
Seinfeld isn’t hanging out with other superstar comics. He mostly hangs out with lower-level comics, the guys hacking it out on stage night after night. Seinfeld spends most of the film talking about stand-up with comedians Colin Quinn, Mario Joyner and Tom Papa. These guys are solid and funny comics, but they’re not selling out theaters.
“Comedian,” with its cool jazz soundtrack, is a fun movie about funny people. This is to say,
watch “Comedian” and skip the dreadful “Funny People” (2009) if you have an interest in learning about how people who make people laugh work.
“Lost & Found” is a weekly column and review of films the author Seames O’ Grady, self-professed movie expert, has in his DVD collection or on his Netflix queue but just hasn’t got around to watching until now.