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10 dramas about comedy

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When you go to a stand-up comedy show, you’re there to have a good time and laugh at some jokes, and if you’re a nerd about it, maybe you go to appreciate the craft. If you’re the guy on stage, though, the perspective is pretty different sometimes. There’s often an obsession at play that borders on addiction, be it to the art, to the wordplay, to the cadence of each punchline, or maybe to the attention and the spotlight. Whatever it is, the motivations behind each person getting up in front of a roomful of oft-drunk strangers to try and kill them and avoid dying makes for some interesting drama, and every once in a while, people in Hollywood try to capture that. So here’s a list of ten dramas about the world of comedy.


1. “Lenny” (1974)

Dustin Hoffman stars in this Bob Fosse film as the titular comedian of world renown, notoriety and reverence. There can never be enough said about how much of a trailblazer Lenny Bruce was, and this film, released eight years after his death, did not shy away from any of the controversies that defined his life as a crusader for free speech by way of clever, straightforward honesty, expressing himself in ways that hadn’t been heard on stage before. That kind of brazen flouting of convention came with a heavy price, to the point where it’s been said that he was arrested so often that his untimely death was caused by “an overdose of police.” This film was nominated for six Academy Awards, by the by.


2. “The King of Comedy” (1983)

A genre wouldn’t be a genre if Martin Scorsese didn’t try his hand at it, and put Robert De Niro in it. Scorsese’s take is a lot creepier than most, however, as De Niro stars as Rupert Pupkin, a really lousy stand-up comic who lives in his own fantasy world and, when he meets legendary comedian Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) by chance, he thinks that alone is his big break. When that doesn’t turn out to be the case, Pupkin kidnaps the guy and holds him for ransom – the ransom of a TV spot. Pupkin is one of the more sympathetic psychopaths you’ll come across, and there’s some debate about how much of this film takes place in his own mind.


3. “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling” (1986)

The icon Richard Pryor insisted that the one and only movie he directed was not autobiographical, but considering how it was the life story of a comedian who burned himself while freebasing cocaine, you have to think this drew heavily on Pryor’s real life. That incident puts Dancer in a coma, during which he reflects on his childhood in a brothel, his self-destructive life and how he got to that very low point.


4. “Punchline” (1988)

Who wouldn’t want to see Tom Hanks as a stand-up comic? He’s a natural born funnyman. In this film, he’s a med student moonlighting in the stage world, and he forms a bond with Sally Field, a housewife who’s also trying to make a go of a new career in this sort of showbiz. However, the friendship is strained when the cutthroat competition of the business gets in the way – not to mention unrequited romantic feelings – and things don’t end wonderfully for everybody.


5. “Mr. Saturday Night” (1992)

Billy Crystal made his directorial debut, giving himself the starring role as Buddy Young Jr., a hugely popular comedian with his own show in the 1950s whose career didn’t go quite the way he’d hoped, and as he aged, he also alienated everybody close to him that helped him reach the top in the first place. While it’s an interesting portrait of a celebrity past his prime, it didn’t do all that well at the box office, but David Paymer was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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