Thursday, July 08, 2004

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Documentary

I would not have rented this film on my own. I've never seen Seinfeld, and have hitherto thought of this guy boldly, (well, arrogantly), as kind of an idiot. It turns out he isn't. The film is a documentary on comedians and the life of being on the road and working your act, refining it, suffering the bad nights, tearing apart the good ones in order to keep developing that thing, the ellusive rocking, kick-ass set. It's a really well done documentary, because there were times that I kept asking myself, "is this scripted, are they building characters in a docu-drama, or is this shit just happening...."

Comedian was a really satisfying film experience, and it reminded me a great deal of what it's like to tour and constantly examine your work and be at the beck and call of your material - one night you own it, one night it owns you. There's also GREAT music all the way through, from folks like Mingus, Miles, Ornette, and others...the spirit of improvisation is present in nearly every frame of the movie.

I would highly recommend renting this, it just came out on VHS and DVD. Although it's a film about comedy, or comedians, it's a rather serious film, with more psycological struggle than laughs. There's a young comedian in the film too (Orney Adams), and in one respect he almost ruins the film, because he's such an ass; but it's interesting that he's in there, because it shows how this younger generation is trying to wrestle the art from the older comics with little skill, but LOTS of attitude (sound familiar?). So, ultimately, it works, but his moments on screen are not the highlight of the film.

I came away from the film with lots of respect for Jerry Seinfeld, who "had it all" in many respects regarding "the business", but has tossed it all and is putting himself on the line by working night after night in small clubs on his art. There are scenes where he just walks in a club at the end of the night unannounced, takes the stage, and does his thing. See it, and tell me whether or not you gotta give the guy credit.

One of the lovely pay offs at the end of the film is Seinfeld visiting Bill Cosby on the road. Their discussion reminded me of how great Cosby is/was, and how much I enjoyed those comedy records he made in the 1960' and 70's.

It's definitely worth checking out. I'm glad I saw it.

Oakland, CA
June 2003


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