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Resource: 5 Fictional Films / TV Shows about Stand-Up Comedy

March 4, 2011

Hello my friends, and a merry TGIF to yez. 

Shameful Secret #37: I used to be am a big fan of Perfect Strangers.  Balky Bartokamous forever!

So I finally got nailed by the flu.  It was right when I stopped the experiment, too.  What is the experiment?  This winter, I decided to turn off the heat in my room at night, so I would sleep, and wake up to a bitter cold environment.  I thought that this would somehow make me stronger, like some kind of Viking Prince.  Or at the very least a Russian Prince.

That’s me on the left with the sweet epaulettes.

Believe it or not, it kind of worked.  I usually get about 3-4 colds per winter, and went all the way to the end of February without incident.  This despite using germ-infested public transit several times a day, and a workplace being riddled with sickies.  However, the mental toll was a bit dear.  This winter has seemed twice as long, because every morning it’s was like waking up in an igloo.  No one should have to muster that much willpower to get out of bed and go to work.  At the end of February, I snapped and turned the heat back on and within 3 days caught a wicked flu.  Coincidence? 

I don’t even know why I’m talking about this.  Long story short, I spent about 38 of the last 48 hours sleeping, and watching Robocop, which is an ancient healing technique passed down through my family.  I’m fine now, thanks for asking.  If you’re still here, today I wanted to round up

5 Fictional Films / TV Shows Involving Stand-Up Comedy

1) Funny People

This is one of the most recently released films that centres around the craft of stand-up.  I enjoyed this movie, but found that the second half dragged.  Still, the first part is funny, filled with great cameos, and super interesting.  I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition between Adam Sandler’s burnt out super comic and Seth Rogan’s hungry front-line open miker.

2) Louie

I’ve been talking about this show a fair amount on this blog because I think it’s utterly brilliant.  Louie CK is doing some stuff with the television format I haven’t seen in a long time, or ever. 

This is Louie’s second show, his first being the utter disaster “Lucky Louie,” which kind of  really stunk.  In an interview with Marc Maron he talks a bit about what went wrong with that show and what he learned.  So when FX approached him to do a new one, he demanded complete creative control.  Literally anything he pleased could go on the show.  And he hasn’t wasted this carte blanche, doing some avant garde things that are sometimes self-indulgent, but often brilliant.  For example, one episode starts off with a scene involving a poker game with louie and other comics.  They get to discussing homophobia in stand-up and when it’s okay to use certain words.  The long scene (7 minutes!) culminates in a gorgeous speech from a homosexual comic, where he explains in a compelling way, the origin of the word “fag,” and why it is offensive.   Then the opening credits roll.  One third of the way through the show.

3) Punchline

This movie is ridiculous.  It’s weird that this was directed by Richard Belzer, a notable stand-up comic in his own time, because the script and plot feels really fake.  The acting, however, is actually pretty good, with Sally Fields and Tom Hanks turning out great performances.  We even get a l’il bit of John Goodman, which is a plus in my book.  It follows the semi-true to life story of a housewife who starts to do stand-up comedy, and the depressed, ne’er do well mentor she finds in Hanks.  The whole thing is about as by the numbers, feel-good comedy as it gets, but there are some nice truths in Tom Hanks’ character that I enjoyed.  Especially the scene where he melts down at a showcase night.  Worth a watch, but cheesy as a Wisconsin Cheddar Festival.

4) Seinfeld

Why even put this on the list?  Everybody knows about this show.  But if you don’t, they touch on Jerry’s stand-up quite a bit in the first couple of seasons.  I think he was the first to use this format – a bit leading into the plot of the show, and it works really well.  Some episodes delve a little deeper into the life of a stand-up, such as the episode where Kramer’s girlfriend keeps heckling Jerry, and doesn’t understand why it’s a no-no.

5) King of Comedy

This is a pretty weird movie with some solid acting by Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhardt.  And believe it or not, Jerry Louis knocks it out of the park with a serious acting role.  It centres around a slightly psychotic loser who is so determined to get his act on TV that he starts crossing all sorts of lines.  Kind of a well-worn, by the numbers kidnapping plotline, but has some nice scenes that explore the double-edged sword of fame, and what it’s like on the other side.  I would recommend this one for sure.  If only for the scene where De Niro is trying to record a demo in his basement and his mom keeps interrupting. 

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That’s that.  Have a good weekend!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Renlds permalink
    March 4, 2011 1:03 pm

    I agree with funny people. It was a film that almost made me laugh. Ra-ra-ra-Randy, might have been the saving grace of the first half of that movie, but in all honesty, Aziz Ansari had a great first act, but is pretty weak compared to the greats. What about “Comedian,” not fictional, but a fantastic film about the neurosis and weird shit that comedians go through.

    • March 4, 2011 2:25 pm

      Good to hear from ya JRen, how’s the Hong Kong life? I agree 100% about Comedian. Definitely my favourite film related to stand-up. In a couple of weeks I want to do a similar 5 list with non-fictional works and you’d better believe this will top the list.

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