DVD Review
Comedian poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published May 2, 2003
US Release: October 11, 2002

Directed by: Christian Charles
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld , Chris Rock , Garry Shandling , Colin Quinn

Running Time: 100 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $2,744,000
5 of 143
Addicting as all hell, and when it?s over there?s a craving for more
Comedian is like any episode of "24" - it?s addicting as all hell, and when it?s over there?s a craving for more.

One of the flaws this might have is heavily portraying one side to the stand-up comic industry, and that being the deep agony that comes with the ability to withdraw laughs from an audience. One angle the film doesn?t necessarily represent to a friendly extent is the reward that comes with a successful act on stage or simply the rush of adrenaline that follows through with such; scene after scene, we are given a glance at various comics? struggles, including that of Jerry Seinfeld.
Comedian is a backstage documentary on not just the popular Seinfeld during a stand-up tour in 1998 but also Orny Adams, a lesser-known comic who?s trying to work his way up. The footage displayed is shot on camcorder by Christian Charles, and features various comedians? outlooks on the topic of stand-up acts as well as wisdom passed on to others. The film can sometimes take on a harsh view of this reality world for those with career interest, but for everyone else it?s really fascinating to witness the emotions at play in this division of life.

And though there wasn?t a moment when I wasn?t engaged through out its short 78 minute running time, the documentary is missing an argument (the upside) that would have, relying on the execution, boosted this feature up to an extremely memorable status. As it stands, Comedian is much in the league of Bowling for Columbine in that it enlightens on its topic as much as it retrieves laughs from the viewer while doing so. And even with the camcorder setup, the film is surprisingly well shot; and the characters are not characters, as being a documentary we?re given true figures with shape, and it is the form of their nature that makes each and every scene as easy to watch as the next.

This flick partially tells the story of an up-and-coming comic named Orny Adams, a 29-year old with a big ego who hasn?t gotten his big break yet. Rather than being an annoyance, the presence is intriguing, for there are bound to be plenty of more souls just like his internalization. Along with that, the edge he brings on mixes well with the documentary?s subject matter. And regardless of his state-of-mind, he can be occasionally funny unintentionally; except here, it?s an edge that doesn?t work against the film, as we?re presented a world where you?re either going to be funny or you?re not.

But unlike a real film where a comic is under risk of not being funny and in return, receives sour responses, this part of life permits a comedian to lack the genuine gem of comedy and get away with it in terms of not pissing off the crowd. But also, this could be just coincidence, as with footage that didn?t make it into the final cut you never know what may have originally been in place. However, one must take into consideration what is currently present before our eyes, and whether edited out or not, what we have enriches the experience.

In an official Hollywood production where a comedic script is being handled by a cast, there can easily be irritable characters reading lines that tick us off. With Comedian, there is no script; there is just a reality that is every-day life and real people coping with real issues challenging their careers. We get to know these figures well, and in the case of Seinfeld we are pretty much already familiar with his talent; yet, this story hands the viewer a hidden side of his act. But then again, the documentary as a whole unmasks a society that is often secretive.

A la the film industry, there is a lot of activity and commotion that the people ruling the industry probably would not want to have exposed to the general public, considering the confidentiality. With Comedian it tells us a backstage story that can take on somewhat of a negative viewpoint toward the stand-up career, and in terms of those talents who have a dream of accomplishing such jobs it can possibly create a dent in wishful thinking. In fact, after witnessing this documentary it may make some folks question what it would be like to see the same experience but in a Hollywood film industry discussion.

However, with the huge popularity of films nowadays it would be a safe bet to imagine that those with the keys to locked doors would make certain those keys be impossible to locate by outside figures. Comedian consists of a stage curtain that is temporarily removed for attention purposes for a scarce 80 minutes. Its world is revealed in secrets some of us might not be aware of; and in some ways that?s a good thing, as it convinces society that really, no industry is as perfect as the illusion modified. It creates a feeling of humanity, as these people are literally just like any other.

But as much as I?d wish for additional documentaries in as engaging of a subject matter (movies, for example), there?s only so many career fields that can be unmasked without the danger of the public internalizing some of the harsh reality, potentially damaging the future in various different ways. Comedian takes a brave step, and as negative as it sometimes comes off, the viewer leaves positively; it is a film that dives beneath the surface yet still leaves signs of hope. The people we?ve been watching for nearly 80 minutes are still whom they are today in the real world, and as ego-centered as some of them are your curiosity to see their position in modern times may be present once the ending credits fly.

Alongside Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams, Comedian also involves numerous cameos that drop in for a word or two, with those being Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Jay Leno, Ray Romano, Garry Shandling, and George Wallace. The subject matter can be considered somewhat limited in appeal, yet the delivery of information and directing style allows the journey with the comedians to be just as tense and adrenaline-filled for us as is for the comics themselves. The golden rule for these types of shows is usually to captivate the demographic regardless of the topic, or at least such productions are known to be the best of the crop. And for me I barely knew anything about this career field, yet after the experience of witnessing the brief glimpse into this work field I not only wanted more footage but am deeply entranced; and for a documentary that?s the precise goal.

Great filmmakers are those who can allow any plot to be effective to an audience, and in a sense those filmmakers could be labeled as good teachers, as they inform (in some way) and entertain at the same time. Comedian is like a great teaching experience, as even if you don?t have any ambition to try the career out you might walk out not only grasping the material well, but could be persuaded to investigate into the substance even more. The documentary does have a defect in storytelling (primarily showing one side rather than a good balance) but it?s also one of the few editions I?ve seen in the genre that makes for an easy repeat viewing piece.

DVD Features:
- Commentary by director & producer
- Commentary by Jerry Seinfeld & Colin Quinn
- Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams' 'Late Night with David Letterman' shows
- Deleted scenes with commentary from director and producer
- Jiminy Glick's interviews with Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams about 'Comedian' made exclusively for DVD
- 'Where is Orny now?' - short film made exclusively for DVD
- Complete advertising campaign
- Actual notes from Jerry Seinfeld, Colin Quinn, and Orny Adams on developing material

Audio Features:
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Lee's Grade: B+
Ranked #5 of 143 between Punch-Drunk Love (#4) and The Rules of Attraction (#6) for 2002 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2995 graded movies
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