DID YOU READ

Five Funny Documentaries About Stand-Up Comedians

Five Funny Documentaries About Stand-Up Comedians (photo)

Posted by on

With a new documentary about the life of Bill Hicks opening in New York City this weekend, it seemed like a good time to dig deeper into the world of documentaries about stand-up comedians. And, pending an thorough examination, this is what we found: there aren’t a lot of good ones. Obviously there are plenty of concert films of stand-ups, just not a ton of docs about stand-ups, and most of the ones that do exist aren’t very good. “American,” which is smartly edited and constructed, is a fine exception. Here are five more:


“The Comedians of Comedy” (2005)
Directed by Michael Blieden

As “The Comedians of Comedy” opens, Patton Oswalt talks about one of the worst gigs of his life: Yuk-A-Buck Night, six comedians, six bucks, one comedy club. Places like that Yuk-A-Buck joint, with their lowest common denominator expectations and two drink minimums, are the reason Oswalt gathered together Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, and Zach Galifianakis for a tour of indie rock clubs in the Pacific Northwest. The crowd at these clubs is younger, smarter, and a whole lot more receptive to weirdness and experimentation. Appropriately enough, weirdness and experimentation also happen to be the key ingredients of Michael Blieden’s “Comedians of Comedy” documentary. Sprinkled between the performances and slice of life on the road scenes are all sorts of quirky digressions, like the sequence where Galifianakis and Posehn entertain themselves in a hotel by creating a softcore porn parody. It’s exactly the sort of film you’d want to see about these off-kilter comics: loose, personal, and unconventional. In one of the funniest bits (that I can put on an all-ages website without fear of getting a concerned email from my boss), Galifianakis expounds on his theory of comedy.


“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” (2010)
Directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg

You look at Joan Rivers’ crazy face, which at this point resembles an over-stuffed beanbag chair, and you wonder “What makes a person do that to themselves?” “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” provides the answer. The film shows just how tough the entertainment business can be for an aging star, even a famous and successful one. For Rivers, the scariest sight in the world is an empty calendar, and at the start of this documentary, her calendar is looking mighty empty. With her career at a low ebb, Rivers hustles for gigs, and you really come to appreciate how much work ethic matters in the stand-up comedy game. Someone without Rivers’ drive to succeed would have quit long ago. But she’s still working, still playing two or three shows a night, still pulling that face ever tighter so she can keep competing in this screwy, youth-obsessed world.

“I Am Comic” (2010)

Directed by Jordan Brady

It’s generous to call “I Am Comic” a “documentary” — it’s basically a plotless collection of interviews with stand-up comedians. But man, what a plotless collection of interviews with stand-up comedians. The topics are fascinating, the anecdotes are candid, and the cast, from Louis C.K. to Larry Miller to Tim Allen is impressive (and not as middle-aged and white, as that sample makes it seem). Amongst the details of a stand-up’s life revealed herein: that many comedy clubs buy condos to put up visiting comics rather than paying for their hotel rooms (and that some comedians have a reputation for contaminating these condos with their filth). No overarching message or theme here, just an awesome assortment of stories. Did you know that Sarah Silverman’s most famous joke (“I was licking jelly off of my boyfriend’s penis and all of a sudden I’m thinking, ‘Oh My God, I’m turning into my mother!'”) was written by another woman who thought it’d be better suited to Silverman’s act? Well now you do.


“Comedian” (2002)
Directed by Christian Charles

There’s only 2 things that could drive a man as successful as Jerry Seinfeld back into a comedy club: a love of comedy or a total addiction to it. “Comedian” explores how both passion and obsession fuel Seinfeld’s return to stand-up after he retired the 20-year-old act that had helped inspire his classic sitcom. Seinfeld’s attempt to regain his chops as a working comic is like watching a great athlete try to come back from retirement — the instincts are still there but the muscles are out of shape. “Comedian”‘s counterpoint to Seinfeld is a young stand-up named Orny Adams, who’s got all the tools but a different sort of hunger. Adams is a smart guy with good material and a terrible attitude. He’s got no love, except for himself, and not much of an addiction either — if Adams got his own sitcom tomorrow, he probably wouldn’t set foot in a comedy club again. Part of what I love about “Comedian” is the way it illustrates the fundamental meritocracy of comedy through the contrast between Seinfeld and Adams. Jerry’s doing it for the thrill and the pleasure; Orny’s doing it for the chance at celebrity and money. And when they get onstage, that’s all totally irrelevant. The only thing matters is their material. For Adams, stand-up comedy is a means to an end. For Seinfeld, it’s a way of life and will be for as long as he can do it, either because he loves it or because he doesn’t know how to stop.


“Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show” (2006)
Direced by Ari Sandel

The stand-up comedy in “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show” isn’t always that great, which, counterintuitively, is exactly why this stand-up documentary is worth watching. All the other films on this list celebrate the titans of the industry. “Vince Vaughn’s…” is one of the few to pay homage to the working comedian, the regular stiff who spends 200 nights a year on the road struggling with cranky crowds and lukewarm material. In 2005, Vaughn decided to pack four comedians into a bus and tour the country for thirty shows in thirty days. The comics he chose aren’t fantastic — the best of the bunch is John Caparulo, who now appears regularly on “Chelsea Lately” — but it’s fascinating to watch them struggle and self-doubt (the interviews are surprisingly candid). They make for a great comparison with Vaughn, the established movie star who coasts along on his charm and stage presence. Some nights the guys kill, and other nights they don’t. Either way, they keep plugging along. In a comedy club, a comic who doesn’t get laughs is a failure, end of story. In a documentary, a comic who doesn’t get laughs is an opportunity to consider why some people feel a need to essentially martyr themselves for our pleasure.


For Further Viewing: “The Aristocrats,” about jokes and joketelling, “Super High Me,” about the role of drugs in stand-up, “Why We Laugh,” about the history of African-American comedy, “Goodnight, We Love You,” about the life of comedienne Phyllis Diller, and “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” about the famous insult comic.

Watch More
FrankAndLamar_100-Trailer_MPX-1920×1080

Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

Posted by on

“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

Watch More
Brockmire-103-banner-4

Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

Posted by on

He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

Watch More
Brockmire_101_tout_2

Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet