Review by Michael Jacobson
Jerry Seinfeld, Orny Adams, Colin Quinn
Director: Christian Charles
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 82 Minutes
Release Date: May 13, 2003
never felt pain until I started doing comedy.”
and the world laughs with you. Create
laughs, and you’re on your own.
is the sentiment of Christian Charles’ documentary Comedian, which is
light on laughs but heavy on sobriety, as it attempts to peel back the notion of
comedy as a fun job and reveal it as a continuing struggle against insecurities
and demonstrate just how much work and pain goes into those magical minutes on
stage that make or break you.
main focus of the film is Jerry Seinfeld, a man who’s already attained the
stand-up’s holy grail: a
successful television sitcom. Seinfeld
was a top rated show for a number of years, went out on top, and netted
Jerry God knows how much money. But
here we see him, even with all that success behind him, climbing up on stages in
tiny comedy dives and trying to get laughs.
“What am I doing here?” he wonders aloud at some point.
The movie tries to answer that question.
best insight comes from comic and former Remote Control star Colin Quinn.
Comedy is honest. No matter
how big a star you might have become, when you take that microphone, you’re
lucky to get maybe five minutes of grace from the audience before they start
demanding you make them laugh or leave. And
ever comic has those bad moments. Even
an experienced veteran like Seinfeld loses his train of thought during a meager
show. At another, the audience
actually talks OVER Jerry’s routine…apparently, they can get over being
impressed with a big name very quickly!
the other end of the spectrum is comic Orny Adams, who appears to be on his way
up. As we spend time with him,
we’ve learned he’s been in the business for some 8 years, has amassed files
and files of written jokes, and manages an air that’s both cocky and insecure
at the same time. One person gives
him advice against talking so much about it during his down times.
He shuns it, but it actually might have been good…the few moments we
get to see Orny making us laugh doesn’t make up for the painfulness of
experiencing his off-stage neuroses up close and personal.
gets a big break on David Letterman’s show, but even that turns into a bit of
a nightmare, as the producers request a last minute change in his routine.
A simple word alteration might not seem a big deal, but when you’ve
lived, breathed and eaten your material for years, it can throw off your entire
rhythm. Fortunately, Orny is up to
comic has made it, one hasn’t, but they share a lot in common.
Every step on stage is a risk, every laugh has to be earned.
Rejection is real and never more than one bombed joke away.
from that central concept, Seinfeld gets to rub shoulders with a few other comic
greats, from Ray Romano, Chris Rock and Gary Shandling to mega-veterans like
Robert Klein and Bill Cosby. After
we learn how much sweat goes into crafting a half hour’s worth of material, we
share Seinfeld’s awe when Chris Rock recollects a Cosby concert in which the
man actually performed for 2 ½ hours straight with no intermission.
Then did it again later that same day.
is a much
better look at the world of stand-up than the manipulative feature Punchline,
but even so, it seems a bit haphazard in construction and a bit repetitious
with its insights. Essentially, as
pointed out, there are three main areas covered by the film, and they don’t
flow together very well. At the
same time, once the movie establishes that life isn’t all laughter for the
stand-up, there’s not much it can do for the length of its running time than
finding other ways to establish the same premise.
The amount of time we actually spend seeing comedy performed is fairly
light…most of the time comedy is discussed and analyzed rather than presented.
That might have been a mistake.
Jerry Seinfeld’s name not been attached to the project, the film probably
would have never garnered the attention it did.
You feel every pinched penny of the low budget as the movie is filmed
chaotically with video cameras and the post production seemed a bit rushed
through. The best touch is the
musical score, which features nice renditions of good jazz standards.
waste of time, by any means…most viewers, particularly Seinfeld fans, are
likely to be intrigued by the ongoing struggles of stand-up comics.
But overall, it left me a little cool.
Maybe even a bit depressed. I
could use a good laugh right about now.
mentioned, this is a low budget film and looks it. With video cameras shooting in mostly low-lit situations,
this DVD has very poor source material to work with. Shots are frequently VERY grainy and soft, with poor
definition. You can see the
comics’ faces as they talk, and usually that’s enough, but don’t expect
5.1 soundtrack fares a bit better, thanks again to the terrific musical score
plus some moments on stage where you can really get into the audience’s
reactions. Not much use of the .1
channel, but it isn’t really missed given the source material.
strikes gold with a terrific features package, starting with two commentary
tracks. The first, by the director
and producer, is more informative, while the second by Jerry Seinfeld and Colin
Quinn is more relaxed, and in some places, more of a continuations of the
discussions on comedy they had in the film,
Deleted scenes with director/producer commentary are included, as well as
interviews of Seinfeld and Orny Adams conducted by Jimmy Glick for the disc.
“Where Is Orny Now?” is a short film also made just for the DVD that
follows up on our newly favorite rising comedy star.
You can also see both Adams’ and Seinfeld’s full appearances on David
out is the trailer (which is a hoot), TV and radio spots, plus a look at posters
and (?) action figures, plus actual handwritten joke notes from Seinfeld, Adams
and Quinn…but good luck trying to read them.
minor complaint: every menu
selection makes you sit through a few seconds of worthless footage before
letting you go on.