Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)
With the rise of YouTube and various other online platforms giving birth to comedians, it has made it seem that just being funny was all it took to become a professional. However, the 50+ stand-up comedians involved in this documentary remind you that being funny is good and all, but that’s just part of the basics.
Characters & Storyline
Comedy is a very peculiar art form, as many of the comedians note. In it, you aren’t selling a painting, a song, or a physical product. You are basically selling you. You are selling your life, your perspective, and hoping that people relate and laugh. However, that isn’t a guarantee and being that you are often the director, writer, and performer, there isn’t any real way to point the finger at someone else for bombing. You can only blame the man or woman in the mirror. And in this documentary, everything is broken down by the various perspectives of the comedians. Be it crowd control and dealing with hecklers, the loneliness that comes with being on the road and the personal life you give up, or how comedy became what saved people from either a horrible life in general or the type of horror which is working 8 to 5 and being miserable.
“[On Bombing As a Standup] What it does make you do is to let you know where the bottom is. And once you know where the bottom is, then you can know whether you can take it or not.”
“[On controlling your audience] When you go out the next show, go to the very front of the stage and stand on the front of the stage, and do not move until you know you have full control of this audience. If one person says anything, I don’t care if you can see them or not, whether it’s a girl, boy, you make it who you need it to be, you talk about them so much until their mother dies. In that way, the rest of the people in the room will know not to fuck with you.”
“Any group of people that think for a living is gonna be sad. You know, we always say, ‘Ignorance is bliss.’ Right? So what’s the opposite?”
The Various Perspectives
One of the things I love about this documentary is that it wasn’t just about the big name talents like Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld or even Keenan Ivory Wayans. The perspective of those who never broke into the mainstream, those who haven’t got that movie role or had a hit TV show, they are included. On top of that, the look and backgrounds of the contributors are diverse. Now, I’ll admit, Black and Jewish comedians dominate, but you have one Hispanic, you have one Asian person, who surprisingly wasn’t Margaret Cho, and you have men and women who all have different physical characteristics.
Universal Lessons in Life & Comedy
With such a wealth of different perspectives came such sound advice which primarily could be considered for aspiring stand-up comedians, but could be applied to life in general. The first two quotes above are prime examples. But, in general, I feel like this documentary took itself seriously. It wanted you to understand that having a camera and a decent internet connection was not all comedy is about. There is a massive amount of preparation, learning how to control a crowd, things you can only learn if you do stand up and fail, and honestly, if someone were to do a college class on comedy, this documentary comes off as something which would have to be part of the course materials.
Didn’t Repeat Who Was Talking
As noted, there are 50+ comedians talking throughout this documentary. Which makes it unfortunate that only during their introduction are we given their name. Something which especially bugged me for there were some comedians whose introduction weren’t noteworthy. Yet, when they appeared a 2nd or 3rd time, they tell a story or joke which makes you want to know who they are. However, not to the point of rewinding and finding when they first appeared.
On The Fence
More Background On Lesser Known Comedians Would Have Been Nice
Only two of the lesser known, at least to me, comedians we got some sort of background on. The male I don’t remember the name of, but his story dealing with Bernie mac and which contains the 2nd quote made me want to know more about him. Then with Tiffany Haddish, who will be in Girl Trip this summer, listening to how she was in foster care and all that, I was wondering why the other comics on the brink of being big didn’t get the same backstory. Granted, it would probably have made this documentary bloated, but I’m sure an extended edition could have been made. If not some clips on YouTube which didn’t make the commercial cut.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing) – Recommended
I don’t watch a huge amount of documentaries, but when I do I am rarely disappointed. But what makes this one special is that this features people who didn’t just do a bunch of research and got it published in journals and made books. These are working comedians, of various success, and it was all about their collective experiences. Many of which conflicted, such as not every comedian having mental health issues or a terrible life. And with that, I feel if you really were interested in comedy, be it out of curiosity or perhaps as a career, you got the type of information you’d need to make a decision for yourself. Hence why I’m not only giving this a positive label but recommending it.