Monday, November 11, 2002

Comedian (IMDB) (Netflix)
Jerry Seinfeld makes his way back to stand-up comedy after his hit sitcom has ended its phenomenal run. The challenge is that he's not recycling old material, but building up his act from scratch bit-by-bit, showing up late at New York City comedy clubs and asking for a few minutes to go on, try out some jokes and get back the funny. There's also a parallel story of still-struggling Orny Adams, who's working the same spots, asking Seinfeld if he should hang it up at the age of 29.

Even with the private jet that Seinfeld now flies in, it's a terrifying and anxiety-laden lifestyle ("Trying out new material is like working a normal job in your underwear"). Neither of these guys are particularly charming offstage, but the commitment they exhibit to the craft and their uncontrollable need to perform are almost endearing. Adams is incapable of being happy for more than a few minutes, and an awed Chris Rock tells Seinfeld how the venerable Bill Cosby still does two 2-hour-and-twenty-minutes shows a day, of new material no less, just when Seinfeld's proud of reaching the hour mark. While more could have been done with this subject (Seinfeld was the executive producer, and presumably had a lot of say over what got shot and the final cut), it's still a compelling portrait of two people driven to succeed, whether they enjoy it or not.