There’s nothing more easygoing than a road movie with good music and likeable leads. In a nutshell, that’s Folk Hero & Funny Guy, a comedy starring Alex Karpovsky (The Foxy Merkins, HBO’s Girls) and Wyatt Russell (Goon: Last of the Enforcers) as best friends who tour working class cities, exhibiting their passions.
Jason (Russell) is a singer/songwriter who has enough of a following to fill his venues. Paul (Karpovsky) is a comedian who uses observational humour and neuroticism to pack a punchline. Paul would be seen as less fruitful when paired with Jason but, then again, the same problem would arise if Paul was compared to practically anyone. He has stale material (he considers jokes about “evites” his best bits), and he’s constantly blaming the audience or the space for the lacklustre response (“This room was not built for comedy”). Jason, without hesitation, invites Paul on his tour to help inspire the struggling comic.
Folk Hero & Funny Guy, a title that’s also used as a joke when Paul is making fun of their unconventional pairing, is a movie that depends on chemistry and accessible, light atmosphere. Karpovsky and Russell deliver on magnetic energy and big laughs, while first-time director Jeff Grace (who also wrote the screenplay) realistically captures the relaxed nature of casual nightlife, as well as the vulnerability of performing to that same undemanding crowd.
Since Grace’s film is more driven by characters than plot, the filmmaker is helped largely by his wonderful cast – aside from his leads – to define the revolving landscape. Standouts include a lovely turn by Meredith Hagner (who also has an amazing voice) along with funny cameos by Michael Ian Black and David Cross.
The film eventually resorts to clichéd blowups between friends, which are hastily tied together by an unmotivated ending, but these derivative moments hardly make this comedy less of a winner.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie