Comedian (2002)
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Review Date: October 22, 2002
Director: Christian Charles
Producers: Gary Streiner
Jerry Seinfeld
Orny Adams
Colin Quinn
Chris Rock
A behind-the-scenes look at the professional life of comedian/actor Jerry Seinfeld as he attempts to master a new stand-up routine on the road, as well as a parallel view of another up-and-coming comedian, who seems to have all the right ingredients to "make it" as a laugh-meister, but just can't seem to hit it. Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Garry Shandling, Bill Cosby and various other comics...ensue.
A decent, if not slightly motivational, look at the behind-the-scenes workings of what comedians have to go through in order to perfect their craft, which unlike what some might think, takes a lot of time, effort, practice and my personal favorite...balls. One of the film's best scenes comes early on, as we actually get to witness the Jerry Seinfeld, the man behind one of the most successful TV sitcoms of all-time, the multi-millionaire, the man who seemingly never messes up a joke, completely forget what he had planned to say in front of a real-life club audience, of which at least one member, voices her loud disapproval ("Is this your first time doing this?"). Sure, Seinfeld ultimately finishes his show, shakes a few hands, spitballs jokes with his fellow comedians and jumps into his limo/Porsche/private jet, but keeps you glued to the screen, if only to find out why, despite his many obvious luxuries, he still feels the need to make others laugh. Another very interesting moment in this movie is presented when legendary comic Bill Cosby sits alone with Seinfeld and offers his two-bits on what it all means (and you actually get to hear both of the "squeaky clean" comedians swear in the movie...kewl!). In fact, I really enjoyed most of this film, especially all the backstage riffing, like Chris Rock popping by for a drink, Gary Shandling busting balls, Jay Leno boring us with his usual shpiel about how he never touches any of his "Tonight Show" earnings, and a number of others. The downside to the film is that it ultimately didn't really give me a much deeper understanding of where comedy "comes from" or why one comic makes it over another, but did offer several theories, stories and entertaining attempts by all.

It also showcases a younger, more arrogant, comic named Orny Adams, who is an ideal case study of how NOT to "make it" in the biz. The guy doesn't really seem to love what he's doing as much as he loves the idea of making it or being a celebrity and makes a lot of foolish comments throughout the film. He's also quite neurotic and a borderline manic-depressive, but ironically...fun to watch. The sad part is that some of his material is actually pretty funny, but he can't seem to get past his own attitude in order to enjoy any of it (at one point, he gets an amazing piece of news for his career, but spends the next 5 minutes calling people to tell them about it and then gets depressed again-dude, it's comedy...cheer up!!). The sadder part is that I could sort of see myself in some of these comedians' attitudes, in that I never seem to be entirely content with any of my finished products-- but I suppose that's one of the things that keeps certain nutjobs going. By the way, if you're going to see this flick for laughs, prepare to be disappointed. There are a few funny one-liners here and there and the behind the scenes "loneliness" of a comedian's life is a definite eye-opener (every time one of them walked down an empty hallway to the front of the venue, I was reeled back to my high school class presentations and the utter anxiety of it all), but overall, the project is presented in a much more informative manner, rather than comedic. It's basically an illustration of what makes up a comedian, not actual jokes, per se.

Now since I myself, am always interested in these types of things, I was fascinated by most of what I saw, despite a little redundancy and the less than ideal sound quality in certain scenes. The filmmakers also make sure not to call this a "documentary" since it doesn't really provide for an objective, all-around view of comedians, but a rather focused one on Seinfeld and Adams respectively. As a documentary, I would have liked to have seen more interviews with folks who zig-zagged through the film like David Letterman or Seinfeld's friends and family, but I can see how things might've gotten out of hand with those kinds of additions. As is, the film works as a remarkable study of the lonely, passionate pursuits of men who feel the need to make others laugh. If comedy is something that intrigues you, or if you just like Jerry himself, I see no reason why this quick 80 minutes wouldn't engage you all around (I actually wanted it to last longer). Also, as if I didn't have enough respect for Seinfeld as a comedian and a seemingly "nice guy" before this movie, I admire him that much more now. I especially liked how he "nicely" brushed off that one dude who inappropriately asked him for a picture...right before he was about to get on stage!! (George: What kind of a person are you? Jerry: I think I'm pretty much like you...only successful.) Indeed, Mr. Seinfeld...indeed.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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