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Comedian (October 25/02)

When Jerry Seinfeld announced he was going to retire all the material that made him famous, it seemed as though he vanished off the face of the planet. As it turns out, he's been working on new material by working small comedy clubs in New York and hanging out with his comedian friends - the process of which has been documented by director Christian Charles and turned into this film.

First off, Comedian won't hold any appeal for non-fans of Seinfeld. If you're one of the few that couldn't stand his show, the movie will probably be as entertaining to you as a forced colonoscopy. But for his fans, Comedian proves to be a fascinating look into his life. Through his conversations with folks like Colin Quinn and Garry Shandling, we get a real understanding of how a joke evolves and changes. It's not terribly surprising to learn that Seinfeld's real-life demeanor is quite similar to his television alter ego; he never gets angry and always has a witty comment on hand. But despite his incredible success, Seinfeld still gets nervous before going on stage - as he remarks at one point, stand-up comedy is a realm in which everyone is equal (either you're funny or you're not).

Still, it's hard to forget the fact that this is the richest comic on the planet - a piece of information that means nothing to a young comedian Seinfeld bumps one night named Orny Adams. Adams, who has almost as much screen time as Seinfeld, is an exceedingly obnoxious and self-conscious comedian who's not even that funny. His jokes are of the run-of-the-mill sort; there's nothing in there a million other comics haven't already touched upon. The bit he's proudest of, involving the size of old cell phones, is just lame. It certainly doesn't help that every time he's on screen, we're counting the minutes until Seinfeld returns. The film's biggest shortcoming is the continued presence of Adams, even though it's almost impossible to care about him (after receiving word that he'll be appearing on Letterman, Adams admits that he was happy for a few minutes before going back to being miserable). Adams' so-called plight causes him to complain to Seinfeld that he's watching all his friends become successful, while he's stuck playing small comedy clubs. Seinfeld's reaction, one which no doubt mirrors that of the audience, is one of disdain and befuddlement; as Seinfeld sees it, he's making a living doing what he loves to do. What does he have to be so miserable about?

Comedian probably would have worked a lot better had it focused entirely on Seinfeld, but as it is, it's still an eye-opening look at the life of a comic. Most of us probably consider stand-up comedy easy enough; it doesn't seem like a profession that requires much work. But the film changes that perception, which is probably a good thing - especially for wannabe comics.

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