Make 'Em Laugh
Bravery, hutzpah, humor -- it takes a heavy dose of all three to be a successful stand-up comedian. Vince Vaughn ‘s Wild West Comedy Show spotlights four promising comics who prove they have what it takes during their road-trip performances in 30 cities on 30 consecutive nights. Vaughn serves as the genial emcee of each show, and some of his celebrity friends appear at various stops. Most fans of stand-up comedy will treasure this amusing and sometimes poignant behind-the-scenes documentary.
Although treated to only snippets of the sets delivered by Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, and Sebastian Maniscalco, we can see their potential. And, most importantly, they make us laugh. As we watch their interactions on the bus and back stage, we also gain a better understanding of the passion and emotional ups and downs involved in this daring performance art. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with family members, which added depth to the background information about Vaughn’s funny foursome. Also, while watching the comics visit a campground that became a refuge for Katrina victims, I appreciated such a revealing glimpse into their big hearts.
Highlights of Wild West Comedy Show include appearances by Peter Billingsley (Ralphie in A Christmas Story -- all grown up now!), Jon Favreau (Swingers), Justin Long (Live Free or Die Hard), Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers) and singer/actor Dwight Yoakam (Panic Room). Improvisational sketches in which Vaughn appears with these guests evoked the most laughs from me. Justin Long is a riot when he tries to imitate Vaughn and as a waiter in a very funny “Dinner for Two” sketch featuring Vaughn and Favreau.
I admit harboring a secret admiration for stand-up comics. Doing an entire monologue alone on a stage -- and in front of a crowd of strangers -- must be quite scary indeed. But the resulting laughter seems to make it worth all the nervousness and effort for them. However, this documentary also shows how depression can set in when a performance fails to live up to the comic’s standard, even if fans seem to love it.
Wild West Comedy Show, directed by Ari Sandel (West Bank Story), may be too raunchy for many viewers -- in fact, I flinched at a number of crude references, especially by Caparulo, who has the most trouble “keeping it clean” for a benefit show attended by Katrina families. This documentary also runs on a bit too long. Still, it’s a much better movie about stand-up comics than Comedian -- and, in the world of comedy, there's nothing wrong with upstaging a great comic like Jerry Seinfeld.
(Released by Picturehouse and rated “R” for pervasive language and some sex-related humor.)