comedy is a tough racket. When you’re on, you’re killing and when you’re off,
you’re dying—and you’re rarely anywhere in between. What kind of person is
drawn to this business? Depressive neurotics. At least that is the casual
thesis of Kevin Pollak’s riff-heavy interview documentary Misery Loves Comedy (trailer here), which had a
special Tribeca Talks screening at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, ahead of its
official opening today at the IFC Center.
explore the notion that comedy is either some kind of cathartic therapy or sick
compulsion, Pollak interviewed over sixty comics and performers, as well as
Jimmy Fallon. Of course, everyone was “on.” That is the whole point.
Nevertheless, they said some revealing things. After all, they just can’t help
and editor Robert Legato went for and nailed the rat-a-tat pacing. They never
linger long enough after a punchline for the audience to supply their own rim-shots.
As a result, there are a lot of laughs in Misery.
A good deal of attention will be focused on big name like Penn Jillette, Steve
Coogan, Tom Hanks, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia, Christopher Guest, Martin
Short, and Richard Lewis, as well as filmmakers like Jason Reitman and James L.
Brooks. Fittingly, Lewis Black and Jim Norton are also prominent in the film,
considering they joined Pollak for the Tribeca Talk and will also represent at
the IFC Center. However, some of the best material come from unlikely sources, like
journeyman comic Dana Gould getting in a killer bit about his struggle with
depression and Freddie Prinze, Jr’s reflections on his father.
to Black and Norton after the screening really helps underscore Pollak’s
general point. Clearly, they are both gallopingly neurotic, but in vastly
different ways. It also provided Pollak with an opportunity to respond to criticism
regarding the alleged lack of diversity in the film, but such charges are
completely unfair. For instance, he features Whoopi Goldberg and she isn’t even
Sure, you could ask about dozens of absent
well-known comics, but a film like Misery
is largely captive to people’s schedules. You get who you can get and then
you go. Pollak’s film never delves too deeply into serious pain (arguably, Adam
Carolla’s Road Hard offers a more
revealing look into the trials of life as a comedian), but so what? It’s breezy
and consistently amusing, which is what most people want from a comedy doc. Recommended
for stand-up fans, Misery Loves Comedy opens
today (4/24) at the IFC Center.
Labels: Documentary, Kevin Pollak, Stand-up comedy, Tribeca '15