(ca) wrote: Think of the greats...Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Sam Kinison, Milton Berle, Andy Kaufman...many of the great comedians in the last 60+ years have entertained us for hours. On stage, in films...they made it look so easy. But when we dig down deep into their lives, we usually find a tortured soul who began using comedy to fill some void left behind for some reason or another. Many of us think that it just takes a certain personality to deliver the genius lines night after night, pushing our buttons, tickling our funny bones. Delivering what 1988's Punchline never could, Jerry Seinfeld's brilliant documentary, Comedian, displays the work, emotion, heart and agony it takes to make it as a stand-up comedian. Fans of Seinfeld know that Jerry spent years on the comedy circuit paying his dues. He appeared on countless Tonight Show and David Letterman episodes, toured the country and, eventually, developed what would become a landmark sitcom, some say the best sitcom of all time. By his early 40's, Jerry Seinfeld had it all...a family, more money than he could ever need, fame, worldwide recognition and legendary status. But shortly after his show ended, Jerry Seinfeld performed an HBO special billed as "the last time he would ever us his old material." While it didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, since most of us would have taken the money and run, it turns out Jerry had a much larger plan in mind. Granted, it seems like it is one that is made up as he goes along, but he definitely had a direction, if even a windy one.In Comedian, the viewer is invited to small comedy clubs, backstage and even to friendly chit chat at dinner with fellow comedians. What initially looks like a behind-the-scenes look at how Jerry made it, gradually turns into a film with much deeper intentions. The viewer is allowed to watch a man, known around the world as one of the best in comedy ever, essentially start his career over. What the viewer watches is not just act after act. The viewer is allowed to watch and become part of the stress, the worry, the blind journey through beginning, developing, honing and, hopefully, perfecting an "act." We see that it is not, in fact, an easy job. In fact, I for one, never could really grasp that industry as a "job." However, now I see that it not only a job, but a very hard one. What is easy to forget, and what the viewer is quickly reminded of, is that where Jerry Seinfeld is today is the product of years of experience. When he tossed his old material away last year and decided to start over, it wasn't easy to re-develop an "act" from scratch that would satisfy an audience. During the course of the movie, we see Jerry start with a few opening lines, working clubs night after night testing new material, discussing new material with peers, like Colin Quinn, Mario Joyner and Chris Rock. We watch as Jerry gets nervous before finally performing an hour-long show with all new material in Washington DC, only to have the show fall relatively flat.There are numerous quotes throughout the movie that crystallize what Jerry, and obviously every comedian goes through when trying to build an "act." For example, at one point, Jerry tells a story to a young up-and-comer, Orny Adams, about Glenn Miller and his orchestra who, one night, had to land a plane in a field because the airport to their destination was snowed in. Upon landing, fully decked out in suits, the band walks miles to a house filled with the typical nuclear family. The family, warm and happy in their cozy home, is being looked upon by the suit-clad orchestra covered in mud and slush, tromping around for hours in the snowy mess only to have one band member state, "wow...who lives like that?" The point being that it takes a certain kind of person to be a performer. It's easy to go live the family life, safe job, salary, etc. It takes passion and the love for the art to be a full-time comedian.In one scene, Jerry and Colin Quinn are having a discussion about starting over. Colin keenly mentions that, even though Jerry is well-known, the audience only gives you a pass for about 5 minutes...then they still expect you to make them laugh. It is painfully apparent in Comedian that Colin speaks truthfully. Jerry uses the wisdom of his friend in his own routine later mentioning that, only in comedy and the comedic television industry, can artists who know the business, are around the business all the time, write the work, perform it, etc. go through the pain and heartache of trying to be funny and then leave it up to complete strangers, the audience, who know nothing about the industry and have probably never written a joke in their lives, gauge and judge the validity of their work. And whatever the audience's response is, the industry and comedians blindly accept it as gospel. Jerry correctly asks, "How would you like it if I came to your work and said that I didn't like how you talked in a meeting, even though I know nothing about the business you're in, what you were talking about or who you are?" It was a great point, though, as one could guess, one without a solution. It just works that way...It just IS.During the course of Jerry's progression in his act, his manager, the infamous George Shapiro, takes another young comedian under his wing, the aforementioned Orny Adams. While getting to know Orny, the viewer becomes aware that this young man is just as passionate about succeeding in the world of comedy. Orny shows us his seemingly endless collection of journals, jokes, notebooks and articles. This 30 year old man has spent more than half of his life either dreaming of or attempting to become his comedic childhood idols. We see Orny get accolades, offers to festivals and even his first network appearance on David Letterman. We see him moving in the direction he has worked so hard to achieve. Yet, we also see how painful it is to get there. There are different audiences who respond differently to his jokes. There are network censors bringing you in because of your talent, only to make you change much of what made it appealing in the first place, just to satisfy one microcosm of the audience. Despite all his growth and success during the movie, we see that Orny is not a happy person and, it seems, never will be.As the movie continues, the viewer is shown the strange parallels between young Orny, who so desperately wants to make it so that he could finally be happy, and wise Jerry who, after making it, still doesn't seem satisfied with the mark he left in the entertainment world. Both of them are at different points in their lives, yet seem to still be working for the same satisfaction that, for some reason, continues to elude them.Finally, after watching Jerry perform what is termed as "miraculous" progress in honing an act over 4 months, a short discussion between Jerry and Chris Rock point to why Jerry is still working toward a goal. Chris pointed out that he had recently seen Bill Cosby perform over 2.5 hours of material non-stop, twice a day. No opening act, no intermission, just non-stop comic brilliance. As much as Jerry has done for the comedic world, hearing that made his jaw drop. After working months and months to get to a starting point for performing the new material, one could tell that it was Bill Cosby's kind of success and mark that Jerry wanted to make. And, from what the viewer could see, that was still along way away.So while the young Orny Adams looks for just a shot at becoming the next Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry continues honing his new act in hopes of becoming the next Bill Cosby. Their journeys seem long and, at times, like they could not possibly ever end the way they want and bring them true happiness. But during the 30-minute sitcoms or hour-long HBO specials, the viewers will enjoy those short moments of brilliance while never truly understanding what it takes to become that brilliant.