Comedians of Comedy, TheReviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/14/05 20:44:46
(Worth A Look)
SCREENED AT THE 2005 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: You’ve really got to hand it to the smart kids that run Netflix. Whenever a wave breaks in the world of film, these guys are riding the pipeline beneath. Online DVD rentals? They made it happen. No late fees? They made it happen. And now they’re starting to push into the world of distribution, with their first big foray into the world of production being this hellaciously funny, mega-low budget, behind-the-scenes concert film, The Comedians of Comedy. Which, incidentally, is freaking hilarious.Patton Oswalt had traveled the stand-up circuit for many years, dipping his toe in the world of TV (Drew Carey Show, Reno 911, King of Queens) and film (Blade: Trinity) along the way, until deciding that the high door prices and small capacities of comedy clubs were just a little too limiting for his needs. So he set up a West Coast comedy tour to take place in bars and nightclubs, for an ultra-cheap ticket price, with longtime buddies Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford all on the bill alongside him. Netflix sent along three cameras and actor/director Michael Blieden (Melvin Goes to Dinner) to run them, and the end result is a consistently hilarious, kick-ass affair.
Yeah, yeah, comedy concert film, yawn – I hear you, people. In terms of variety, there are really only two kinds of comedy concert film. There are those that are funny, and those that feature Margaret Cho. Of the funny ones, they pretty much always follow the same formula, leaving the difference between a 5-star and 1-star film a matter of the whether the critic and the comic share the same sense of humor. Few try to push the boundaries, and fewer still go truly behind the scenes to learn what makes the talent tick, something that I always thought was a shame, since most comedians are either fucked up nutcases or genuinely brilliant guys. Either option makes for entertaining times.
In The Comedians of Comedy, there’s a little of both on display, with far more of the latter. Patton Oswalt has never been a guy I pegged as being hysterically funny, let alone politically aware or particularly edgy, but I’m now a total fan. The guy is drop your pants funny, both on screen and off, and what this film shows in abundant detail is that there is no Patton Oswalt ‘character’ – he’s just a funny guy who is always on. Brian Posehn, likewise. The slow-moving giant of Just Shoot Me fame is not afraid to drop trou if it will sell a joke, and when he’s not raiding comic book stores or pumping quarters into a Rollin Thunder arcade game, he’s riffing routines and cracking up those around him.
And that’s really what puts this film in the upper echelon of comedy concert movies – that you feel like you’re on tour with the guys rather than simply watching a ‘best of’ series. The time is basically split 50-50 with performance clips and backstage/on the road footage, and while the stage work is impeccable, it’s the quiet moments when the camera has been running for two hours that really let you in to this circle of friends.
Credit the talent for their skill and timing and ability to riff, sure, but also give massive props to Michael Blieden, who shows here that his work on Melvin Comes to Dinner was no comedy fluke. The distributors were lined up five deep to get a seat in this screening, and judging by the reaction from the crowd, they’ll have their checkbooks ready. I certainly hope so, because comedy films are rarely this funny, and those in them are rarely this much fun to get to know.“If you vote for George Bush and you’re not a billionaire, then you’re a stupid girl from the Midwest giving blow jobs at the county fair.” Word.
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