Documentary, Stand-up

Comedian (2002)

0 Comments 09 February 2012

Studio: Echo Bridge Entertainment/Miramax

Theatrical Release: October 25, 2002

DVD Release: December 15, 2011


Review by James Klein

Most everyone knows Jerry Seinfeld as the star of his own, long running sitcom from the 1990’s Seinfeld. Not everyone remembers how he started in “the biz”, as a stand up comic. Now, with his series over, Seinfeld goes back to his roots and starts to get back in the game by doing more stand up acts while coming up with more jokes to play off a live audience. There have been many films about stand up comedians such as LennyPunchline, and Funny People. But none of them was able to capture the insecurity and selfishness that some comedians are capable of being. Comedian almost pulls it off but seems to be afraid to go into the darker and drearier side of stand up comics. We get just a taste of it.

The documentary Comedian would have you believe that this is about Jerry Seinfeld. It is not. It is about Jerry Seinfeld’s stand up career post-Seinfeld. We see Jerry traveling to different night clubs and improv performances, testing out new bits. At one point he asks the people who run a comedy club if he could come in unannounced and do a quick bit for the audience to just test out his act. There are points where he hangs out at a bar with Chris Rock and Colin Quinn and the two discuss what they do in their act or the hardships of being a comedian. One gets the impression that it is not a stable lifestyle. And to see these stars still feel insecure in their routine is very surprising.

Comedian does not delve into the life of Jerry that is outside of his career. We only briefly see his wife and child near the end of the film when he is about to go on Letterman. There is no footage of him as a child, how he got started, what films and TV shows he has done. Even Seinfeld is seldom mentioned. In a way, this style works well for the movie but if you are looking to get inside Jerry’s head, much like the Joan Rivers documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, you will be disappointed. Probably my favorite moment is when Jerry gets to speak to Bill Cosby right before he is about to do two live shows that are for two hours a piece. Even Jerry Seinfeld himself is still in awe of the great Bill Cosby, especially when Cosby offers him advice on his act.

Comedian also is not entirely centered on Jerry Seinfeld. The film shifts focus at times to a young, rising comic named Orny Adams. Orny is, in a way, the polar opposite of Jerry. He is brash, pessimistic, insecure, egotistical, and obnoxious. When there are clips of his bits, I didn’t think he was that funny and yet this guy thinks he’s God’s greatest gift to the world. When he talks to Jerry about how he wants his friends and family to think highly of him and that he made it in life, Jerry just looks at him and says, “What are you talking about?” Orny only cares about himself and even when he nabs the great George Shapiro as his agent, he still isn’t happy and still talks down to Shapiro like he doesn’t know what he is doing or talking about. While his scenes are entertaining, I wasn’t sure why Comedian focused half of the film on this one guy. Maybe to get a different look and style of another comedian?

While the DVD is dirt cheap, Echo Bridge Entertainment has not released any of the extras that were previously available on DVD. I still say the film is worth grabbing for a cheap price as it is an entertaining, fast paced, and fascinating look at the life of a comedian while he is at “work”.

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