Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Comedian

"What's more fun than hanging out with comedians?"

"Nothing. Nothing. That's the sad part." - exchange between Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn, Comedian (2002).

I vacillated between adding this disc to the list, or banishing it to the bin of unremarked-upon DVD detritus. Back in the day, the documentary felt like a revelation. Besides following Seinfeld's surprisingly bumpy return to the stand-up stage, we got a joshy commentary from the comedian and his friend. But then, prior to 2002 the opportunity to eavesdrop on droll exchanges between Jerry Seinfeld and buddy Colin Quinn was something only another friend or a stand-up devotee could chance into. Now it's an internet staple.

But I gave it another look last week -- the theatrical release, as well as with Seinfeld and Quinn's running commentary -- and it still (snicker!) stands up. And it's all thanks to Orny Adams.


The poor guy leads with his chin. And, given his chosen profession and the people this choice obliges him to hang out with, he gets it on the chin -- again and again and again. He's young, he's anxious not just for success but for validation -- that ephemeral end-point that, people who are older and wiser realise, simply does not exist. Older and wiser folk also recognise that this yearning fuels his ambition, so they tolerate the accompanying histrionics.

To a point. I was not at all surprised by the ease and glee with which older comedians took to lancing the boil of Adams' festering id. But I was surprised by their equanimity -- for every put-down there's a validation of what the kid gets right, or a recognition that, yes, this turmoil is indeed a recognizable and inescapable part of the journey.

Much is made of Adams' clueless solipsism. But there's another cluelessness on display -- the sort that slowly takes over when someone becomes a standout success. Both bear close examination.

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