Friday, July 27, 2012

I Am Comic - A Review

I Am Comic
Release Date: 2010
Writer/Director: Jordan Brady

    Documentaries about stand-up comedy are becoming very common these days and I think it's because the topic is intriguing to even a casual fan of the art form. Anyone who has ever told a funny story to a group of friends and gotten a laugh has probably thought about trying it out on a real audience. That's where the fantasy ends for most people, as a brief thought. However for those who decide to try their hand at an "open mic" night at their local watering hole it can be an overwhelming experience.

    "I Am Comic" is documentary that sets out to define what "stand-up" comedy is and what it's like. Jordan Brady(a comedian of some note in his own right) assembles a list of comedians too long to mention to go over such topics as(and I am paraphrasing a little here) dealing with hecklers, the anatomy of a joke, going on the road, taboo subjects, earning money etc., 

    The comedians that Brady interviews all give very honest and real answers. This a rare glimpse into the mind of a comedian. There is very little self-promotion and only a few go for a laugh in their response. As an amateur comedian it is somewhat reassuring to see that even the people who are at the top of the industry have all paid their dues. In that regard this movie worked well.

    Where the movie shines though is with the sub-plot of comedian Ritch Shydner who, while helping Brady assemble the list of comedians to interview, gets the itch to go back on stage after a thirteen year retirement. Ritch is a comedian with whom you will instantly recognize and say "oh yea, I remember him" and watching him tackle his first open mic after such a long hiatus is as compelling as anything I've ever seen.

    Is this movie perfect? Not at all. Brady struggles at times balancing between his main topic which is as complex as any subject out there with his secondary story-line of following Ritch attempt to get his career going again. I found the latter to be the more intriguing of the two and I believe Brady did as well as the movie seems to shift focus and not as seamlessly as one would hope. To be fair it suffers from the fact that I have also seen Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian" which is a far superior movie covering much of the same topics and in a much more concise way. In the end we get to see some of the top performing comedians give their insight into an industry and art form that has a relatively simple concept to grasp but nearly impossible to master and that alone makes this movie worth watching.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Good Day Eh...

    Good day eh, it's like Canada day up in the Great White North today and in honor I decided to fry up some back-bacon on the coleman right and get a sixer and listen to the two greatest hosers this country has like ever produced eh. So, this my review of Bob & Doug McKenzie's album "The Great White North". It's a beauty eh. The end.

Bob & Doug McKenzie - The Great White North
Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas
Originally released in 1981

    One of the many things that makes Canada different than most nations is that we do not seem to take ourselves so seriously. We as a people take self deprecating humor to the extreme when we talk about our home and native land. It's not really that cold, our Army isn't that poorly equipped and our alcoholic tendencies are, at the very least, exaggerated. The Canadian stereotype is one that it is firmly rooted in our heritage at this point and one we take a certain amount of pride in and right at the beginning of our cultural image is the advent of "pop culture" and Bob and Doug McKenzie.

    Bob & Doug McKenzie are fictional brothers played by Rick Moranis(Bob) and Dave Thomas(Doug) who first came to the spotlight after premiering as a sketch on the hit program SCTV(Second City Television). Initially the concept came about as a result of the CBC(Canada's Broadcasting Corporation) requesting that something on the show be uniquely Canadian. Moranis and Thomas gave them exactly what they wanted but thought they were mocking the system. Faced with the pressure to create something unabashedly Canadian on a show filled with Canadians and filmed in Canada they thought was a ridiculous request so they came up with the idea of the most stereotypical Canadians they could imagine. Enter Bob & Doug a couple of Canadians who wear toques, drink beer, smoke and eat nothing but back-bacon and donuts. The trouble was rather than "sticking it to the man" it became a major success in both Canada and the United States. At the peak of their popularity Bob & Doug McKenzie recorded an album for which they received a Grammy nomination and released a movie("Strange Brew"). They were Canada's answer to Cheech & Chong

    After listening to their album late one night I will say this for all of the younger readers, you may not get this humor. It's certainly not "high brow" humor by any stretch of the imagination however the album does not age well. It is likely more a sign of the times as it is anything because the banter between Bob & Doug still feels fresh and envisioning you are there hanging out with them takes little imagination however something feels off. The album plays up jokes about the A side versus the B side that I'm not sure the average twenty something will truly appreciate. The stories told are clean and sterile with little bite to them which makes the album safe for literally anyone to listen to but it just adds to the feeling that it's lacking something.

    What it's lacking is being able to see Bob & Doug interact with each other. In preparing for this article I easily spent close to an hour watching old sketches on Youtube and I will admit that I laughed harder at those clips than I ever did listening to the album. However, you would be a fool to pass up a chance to own a copy of "Bob & Doug McKenzie's: The Great White North" and give it a listen, if for nothing else than to relive a time when the comedy album still mattered. So grab a touque, a sixer, some back-bacon and turn the album on and just "Take off eh!"