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Mon November 4, 2002
Forget the laughs in Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian"...
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Forget the laughs in Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian" because what you learn from this documentary is not how to construct a joke or how funny he can be. You learn about the pain involved in being a professional; you learn that going back to what you were before you made half a billion dollars is difficult but essential to make you better at what you are now.
As director Christian Charles tracks Jerry through famous comedy clubs like the Gotham, the sweat is almost visible on his brow. He comments on how difficult even 5 good minutes can be, how long it will be before he can stand up for half and hour, and how amazing Bill Cosby's 2 hour 20 minute show, without intermission, is by any standard. Seinfeld's commitment to throwing out all the old material is evident every time we see him approach an audience with the new-there is no guarantee it will work, no matter how many years of comedy you have dedicated your life to.
"Comedian" also features a new comic, Orny Adams, who gets a gig on Letterman that makes him almost cry in frustration. Both Adams and Seinfeld are perfectionists not satisfied with where they have gone but obsessed with how well they are doing now and what they can do to survive into the future. The scenes with Jerry and fellow comics Garry Shandling, Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, and Jay Leno are valuable to witness the similar fears and joys they all share in a game that often is desperate.
Just don't think you will know Jerry Seinfeld as a person after this film. He remains guarded throughout, like his famous sitcom persona. His fascination with the mundane or "nothing" as he called it years ago remains the hallmark of his genius.
This is an excellent film to show how important constant work on what we do well is necessary and how we may always be our own best critics and audience. Kafka said his hunger artist "was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast."
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus. "It's Movie Time" streams on the web at www.wcbe.org Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.