Dying Laughing, a documentary about the ups and downs of careers in comedy, is chock full of talent. Billy Connolly, Dave Attell, Amy Schumer, Rick Overton, Kevin Hart, Sarah Silverman, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry Lewis, Chris Rock, and the late Garry Shandling are just some of the famous faces interviewed.
Paul Provenza also shows up. His frequent appearances made me remember The Aristocrats, a frenetic doc he co-conceived with performer Penn Jillette that deconstructed arguably the filthiest joke ever told. If The Aristocrats was a no-holds-barred orgy, Dying Laughing is the result of those same participants grabbing breakfast the next morning and finding out how much they have in common with each other.
Dying Laughing is relentlessly funny, but the point to Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood’s film is to expose an underbelly to a flamboyant craft, and connect the similarities to different performers. Material and rhythm may vary with different comedians, but the emotional exhaustion and personal dilemmas that are discussed at length in this documentary are more mutual than we thought. To counter this, other comics like Faizon Love (Elf, Couples Retreat) express that even if a comic isn’t necessarily driven by strife, the creative process and the reaction to being heckled can still hit similar notes.
While intermittently split up by clips of middle-America and comedy clubs to provide context, the documentary’s greyscale cinematography is also an appreciative touch. It’s simple, but it gives the film a level of sophistication. The film is also expertly edited, making seamless transitions between relevant topics and never losing an ounce of passion or emotion.
Dying Laughing could be the rawest film about comedy ever made. I loved it!
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie