time: 104 minutes
by Kevin Lang
Sometimes you have to go back to the streets to work on your game, and that was exactly what Seinfeld did in the film. At times as we watched Seinfeld looking anxious before a show, I thought to myself as I always had, "C'mon, your Jerry Seinfeld. You shouldn't be nervous." Yet, as we watched him trying to focus backstage before a routine, I began to realize that he is human too, and to get up in front of hundreds of people to try to make them laugh would not be such an easy thing to do, even for Jerry Seinfeld, who made us laugh for years from a finely tuned script on his hugely popular sitcom.
Directed by Christian Charles, "Comedian" was more than just a backstage look at Seinfeld. We also watched comedian Orny Adams trying to make it big. He eventually hooked up with Mark Shapiro, who discovered and still manages Jerry Seinfeld. Mark got Orny a gig on "The Late Show with David Letterman." This side story was a nice contrast to Seinfeld's own standup comeback story, since we already watched him make it big.
"Comedian" offered a behind the scenes look at what goes into being a comedian. I never knew that it took months and even years to polish the same jokes. And we witnessed Seinfeld stumbling over jokes whose punch lines had escaped him. It was fun to watch him drive his Porsche from club to club trying to practice his new material before they closed for the night.
The characters expressed their own critiques of themselves, including Seinfeld who discussed his comeback to standup with respected comedians like Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Collin Quinn, Gary Shandling, and most notably, Bill Cosby. Seinfeld helped to partially answer another question. What do some TV and movie stars do when we don't see them on TV or in the movies? At least, what does Jerry Seinfeld do?
It was interesting to watch Seinfeld now, especially since we know where he has been. Seinfeld seemed to struggle with this. He wanted to go back to the basics, and it seemed to me that he wanted to experience the thrill of making it again. By the end, after a meaningful discussion with the comedic legend Bill Cosby, we saw a deep look come across Seinfeld's face as he tried to accept that he had already been to the top. It seemed that Jerry was only then beginning to realize that his dreams had already come true. This didn't mean that he couldn't do what he still loved, but hearing Bill Cosby speak about his love of comedy, seemed to make Jerry begin to realize that he was an established veteran who still wanted to let a rookie's fear of approval drive him.
I liked "Comedian."
It was a glimpse into a world that we don't normally see. It was like
watching a well produced behind-the-scenes documentary for a movie, where
you just sit back amazed at the amount of work and struggle that went
into a mere moment of the audience's time. I did want to see more of the
private life of Jerry Seinfeld. I wanted him to open up his life a little
more and invite the audience in, instead of just giving them a temporary
backstage pass. "Comedian" held my interest, but it didn't risk
enough. It tried to look at comedians through only their professional
lives, instead of showing us how comedy has interacted with and affected
them personally as well.
Review written November 13, 2002, CTF.
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