Like the fictional BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, Christian Charles's documentary,
COMEDIAN, takes us inside other people's heads. The heads in question
are those of standup comics who uniformly suffer from acute anxiety
and insufferable insecurity. We follow two prime examples of these
hard working funnymen, Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams, who clearly
relish the opportunity to confess their fears to the camera.
The documentary's dingy look leaves a lot to be desired, with images
lacking both clarity and warmth. Luckily the sound is acceptable
so we can at least listen to the insights of both accomplished comedians
and up-and-comers. Seinfeld, for example, explains that a comedian
doing a new bit is like someone going to work in his underwear.
In addition to the off-stage interviews, the film includes many nightclub
comedy routines. Watching Seinfeld deliver lame material to a very
receptive audience makes one wonder why some jokes are deemed hilarious
and others bad. In Seinfeld's case, he can get audiences to laugh
at mediocre humor because his delivery is impeccable and simply because he is who he is.
Adams, an anal retentive with stacks and stacks of potential material,
proves to be the more interesting, and grating, of the two comedians
studied. He stacks up his papers like a squirrel storing up nuts for a long winter.
Like a comedian who starts off promisingly but then proceeds to flop,
COMEDIAN runs out of steam after a half hour. Good comedians know
when to make their exit. As a short film, COMEDIAN would have sizzled,
but, as a full-length motion picture, there just isn't enough material.
COMEDIAN runs 1:21. It is rated R for "language" and would be acceptable
for kids around 11 and up.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes