Jerry Seinfeld is a working stand-up comic again. COMEDIAN is a candidly revealing, intimately observed, and often very funny look at what it takes to be a comedian. On-stage, Jerry delivers his hilarious brand of observat... more »ional humor. Off-stage, he struggles with difficult material, confronts self-doubt, revels in small successes, and accepts help and support from friends and colleagues, including Colin Quinn, Ray Romano, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling, Jay Leno, and Bill Cosby. COMEDIAN also discovers the sharp wit of rising young comic Orny Adams -- outspoken, insecure, and fanatical about becoming the "next big thing." What emerge are two fascinating journeys by two contrasting personalities who have some surprising parallels.« less
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 09/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Comedian" chronicles Jerry Seinfeld's return to the comedy club circuit after dismantling his sitcom in 1998 and retiring his well-honed live routines in the HBO special "I'm Telling You For The Last Time."And though the documentary has lots of stand-up comedy, as well as appearances by comics such as Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Garry Shandling, Robert Klein and Bill Cosby, this is not really a concert movie. It's actually a glimpse into the business of entertaining and the process behind making an audience laugh. "Comedian" is a funny movie, but it's really more about the humor of anxiety and self-doubt than punch lines.
Shot on digital video by Christian Charles (who directed Seinfeld's snappy American Express commercials) and crammed with excellent jazz and pop music, the movie follows Seinfeld and a young comic named Orny Adams as they hit the road, work on new material and perform on "Late Night With David Letterman." Adams -- keyed-up and hypersensitive -- doesn't fare as well as Jerry but given that he's sharing space in a movie with one of the most popular television personalities in history, he kind of has the deck stacked against him.And yes, Seinfeld, after being out of the spotlight for a while, does remain an interesting personality, even more so when caught on a relatively candid camera (Jerry curses?). His backstage conversations with Leno, Cosby, Rock and Colin Quinn reveal a guarded camaraderie, and fans who spent a significant chunk of the '90s chuckling at the misadventures of Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine will probably find it amusing that Seinfeld still actively worries he'll bomb in front of a crowd.But for all Seinfeld's agonized fretting over writing jokes and winning the audience's approval, anybody who puts in 40-plus hours a week at an office probably won't find much sympathy for a guy who has been given hundreds of millions of dollars doing the very thing he loves to do.Nevertheless, "Comedian" is a sharp, insightful, wry and occasionally stinging piece of business."
A great tool for a leadership conference
William Krischke | Portland, OR United States | 07/26/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This ends up being less a documentary about comedy and more a character study of a mature and an immature craftsman. The craft here is comedy, but it really could be anything, especially any type of art. A friend and I watched this and afterwards talked about how well Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams illustrate the principles of leadership.
Jerry Seinfeld is the portrait of a mature craftsman.
1. He is able maintain a healthy separation between himself and his craft. When a bit is not funny, it doesn't mean he isn't funny, it means the bit needs work. So he reworks it. When a set doesn't go well, he accepts the responsibility (doesn't "blame it on the candles") and figures out how to make the next set go better.
2. He has a life outside of his work. We only see his family for a few seconds; this is a film about comedy, and that's his job, not his life.
3. He views other craftsmen in his field as resources and comrades, not as threats and enemies. It is clear Jerry has a warm relationship with other comics, most notably Colin Quinn, and is able to discuss the craft and refine material with them. He listens to their advice, airs his concerns, and hears their concerns. He learns more about the craft by discussing it with other craftsmen.
4. He is willing to take risks in order to make himself a better craftsman, and produce a better craft. The real story of Jerry Seinfeld here is that he is starting over -- all new material -- in order to sharpen himself, to challenge himself and stay on top of the game. It's a huge risk that makes him a better craftsman.
Orny Adams is the portrait of an immature craftsman.
1. He is unable to maintain a healthy separation between himself and the craft. When a set doesn't go well, Orny takes it personally. It's like the audience is attacking is worth, his value as a person. He believes that if he is not funny, he is worthless. As a defense mechanism, he gets angry. At different points in the movie, he rages at a bad audience, a bad club, and a bad time slot.
2. Apparently, he has no life outside his work. He calls his mom once, to tell her he has one a contest. But it's clear he's unhappy, and it's quite possible it's because all he has and does and is is comedy.
3. He views other craftsmen in his field as threats and enemies. It's pretty clear that other comics respect Orny Adams, but none are his friends. At one point in the movie, another comic tries to give him some advice -- primarily about what I noted in point #2, that he needs to have a life outside of his comedy -- but he gives it like he's giving it to a rattlesnake about to strike. He is constantly verbally backing away, disclaiming, trying to say what he has to say without being struck. And Orny receives it like a rattlesnake. He cannot hear what the man has to say, and instead tells him what he ought to be saying to him. At another point, he says he has respect for Jerry Seinfeld, but it looks more like envy to me. He wonders at one point, if Jerry's success is not simply the result of luck. (That may be misquoted in the movie. I got a strong sense while watching it that Orny doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut, and that the documentary editors cut pieces of his dialogue from their context to make what he says sound worse than it actually is.)
4. The prospect of taking risks with his craft makes him anxious and miserable. He has to take a pretty minor risk when he goes on Letterman -- he has to change one key word in his set -- and it gives him fits. He rages against the show, and is clearly a nervous wreck afterwards. The sad thing is, the risk worked. The bit was still funny. But his inability to separate his craft from himself (back to #1) mean that this risk absolutely wrecked him.
Orny Adams is a very talented comedian, and in all fairness, if we went back and watched Jerry Seinfeld twenty years ago, he probably would have looked much the same. Here's hoping that he matures into a competent craftsman. My advice to him would be to take some time off -- spend a year away from the circuit, away from comedy, so that he can establish an identity that isn't the craft. Then come back. If not, I have to agree with George Shapiro's words: "Yeah, Orny, I think you'll be big. But I think you'll still be unhappy.""
Interesting study of stand up comedians
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 11/04/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The documentary "Comedian" provides a nuts-and-bolts, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of the stand-up comic. While it features a sea of familiar faces - Ray Romano, Gary Shandling, Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Bill Cosby - making what turn out to be little more than cameo appearances, the film focuses almost exclusively on two figures from the comedy nightclub scene: one well known, Jerry Seinfeld, and the other an up-and-coming, potential new star named Orny Adams. "Comedian" derives much of its meaning from the ironic juxtaposition of these two men. Seinfeld is a man who has managed to achieve what, for any comedian, would be the pinnacle of success - fame, fortune and international celebrity status - yet he still finds himself riddled with personal doubts and feelings of inadequacy every time he gets up to perform on stage. Adams, who has yet to get that "big break," somehow comes across as much more cocky, arrogant and self-assured than Seinfeld - although Adams, too, confesses that he may indeed be a harsher critic of his own performance than are the members of his audience."Comedian" was originally shot on video and transferred to 35 MM film, a fact that accounts for the dark, blurry, grainy quality of the picture. Most of the film's time is spent backstage with the comics as they air their views on their chosen profession, their colleagues, their personal idols, their various demons, their need to perform, their drive for perfection and their harsh, overly critical evaluation of their own skills and talents that often lead them into bouts of serious depression (Adams seems particularly prone to such reactions). These scenes are interspersed with brief snippets of some of their stand-up routines, which, surprisingly, seem rather devoid of laughs (Seinfeld has always struck me as more funny on his TV series than he ever has been on stage). One also notices that the world of the stand-up comic in this film is strictly an Old Boys Club. Perhaps, we will one day be treated to a sequel entitled "Comedienne" to give the distaff side of the profession its due."Comedian" is a very short film - it runs a mere 81 minutes - and, as a result, it feels a little superficial at times and even truncated at the end. We would like to see a bit more of the lives of these two men - Adams, in particular, seems to disappear from the film a bit prematurely - but it is a must-see for anyone interested in this unusual branch of the entertainment field. The film will make you view stand-up comedy in a whole new light."
If you know what to expect, you won't be disappointed!
A. Ort | 05/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The people who are giving this movie 1 or 2 stars are obviously people who are just looking for Jerry's standup routine on video, and they are sorely disappointed. These seem to be the same people who mistakenly think Orny Adams (the up-and-coming comic featured as prominently as Jerry) is an egomaniac and 'full of himself.' In reality, he is about as insecure and tortured with self-doubt as a person can get. He is a very interesting character and I don't agree with the 'thumbs up, Jerry, thumbs down Orny' opinion. This is a fascinating documentary, and Orny's travails give you real insight into the world of stand-up comedians. Since it was produced by Jerry, he probably 'sanitized' the footage of himself. Orny, on the other hand, is shown in raw and sometimes painful 3D. I highly recommend this film for anyone who wants to learn more about what goes on 'behind the scenes' at comedy clubs and the sometimes tortured life of a comedian."
Remarkably surprised by this one...
A. Ort | Youngstown, Ohio | 08/25/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My wife is a Seinfeld fanatic. It used to get on my nerves ('honey, life is not a Seinfeld episode' I would tell her) and it took me some time to warm up to the show. After all, the characters are really just neurotic, selfish, and insensitive to anybody and everybody (which, ironically, is the shows saving grace). But it obviously worked because it was successful and is funny. In the later years it got to be a bit over the top and lost its charm. And it is this that Seinfeld realized. I believe this is why he wanted to get back to standup.Seinfeld attempted, apparently quite live before the camera, what few comedians do. He wiped out his material that had taken him so many years to develop. He literally scratched it and began anew. It is this aspect that is most intriguing about the film. We see Seinfeld forget his material, we see him performing in small clubs and we see very human emotions eminate from him in regards to actually struggling to begin again. In a paradox, his status helps him get in the doors of clubs that no names would have a difficult time getting into but his big name also works against him in terms of expectation. You really can't go back again. But it gives great insight into what makes him so unique and so good at comedy. It really is serious business.I give this four stars because Orny, the other comedian shown in the film, is just plain annoying. I never found him funny and his neuroses are so over the top and so out in the open that it becomes painful to watch him. I don't know if that was the point or if they merely had to include him because they had followed him for so long. Either way, it's a drag. Perhaps I am being too harsh and it does provide another view into what it's like to rise from being nobody to actually making a name for yourself in the comedy circuit. If you are interested in what's behind the Seinfeld mystique, it's a great place to visit. Cameo appearacnes by other famous comedians adds to the film's depth. These are very real people and it's refreshing. It's not polished and it isn't Seinfeld the sitcom. It's a documentary but it's well worth it."