70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2003
"Comedian" chronicles Jerry Seinfeld's return to the comedy club circuit after dismantling his sitcom in 1998 and retiring his well-honed live routines in the HBO special "I'm Telling You For The Last Time."
And though the documentary has lots of stand-up comedy, as well as appearances by comics such as Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Garry Shandling, Robert Klein and Bill Cosby, this is not really a concert movie. It's actually a glimpse into the business of entertaining and the process behind making an audience laugh. "Comedian" is a funny movie, but it's really more about the humor of anxiety and self-doubt than punch lines.
Shot on digital video by Christian Charles (who directed Seinfeld's snappy American Express commercials) and crammed with excellent jazz and pop music, the movie follows Seinfeld and a young comic named Orny Adams as they hit the road, work on new material and perform on "Late Night With David Letterman." Adams -- keyed-up and hypersensitive -- doesn't fare as well as Jerry but given that he's sharing space in a movie with one of the most popular television personalities in history, he kind of has the deck stacked against him.
And yes, Seinfeld, after being out of the spotlight for a while, does remain an interesting personality, even more so when caught on a relatively candid camera (Jerry curses?). His backstage conversations with Leno, Cosby, Rock and Colin Quinn reveal a guarded camaraderie, and fans who spent a significant chunk of the '90s chuckling at the misadventures of Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine will probably find it amusing that Seinfeld still actively worries he'll bomb in front of a crowd.
But for all Seinfeld's agonized fretting over writing jokes and winning the audience's approval, anybody who puts in 40-plus hours a week at an office probably won't find much sympathy for a guy who has been given hundreds of millions of dollars doing the very thing he loves to do.
Nevertheless, "Comedian" is a sharp, insightful, wry and occasionally stinging piece of business.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
This ends up being less a documentary about comedy and more a character study of a mature and an immature craftsman. The craft here is comedy, but it really could be anything, especially any type of art. A friend and I watched this and afterwards talked about how well Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams illustrate the principles of leadership.
Jerry Seinfeld is the portrait of a mature craftsman.
1. He is able maintain a healthy separation between himself and his craft. When a bit is not funny, it doesn't mean he isn't funny, it means the bit needs work. So he reworks it. When a set doesn't go well, he accepts the responsibility (doesn't "blame it on the candles") and figures out how to make the next set go better.
2. He has a life outside of his work. We only see his family for a few seconds; this is a film about comedy, and that's his job, not his life.
3. He views other craftsmen in his field as resources and comrades, not as threats and enemies. It is clear Jerry has a warm relationship with other comics, most notably Colin Quinn, and is able to discuss the craft and refine material with them. He listens to their advice, airs his concerns, and hears their concerns. He learns more about the craft by discussing it with other craftsmen.
4. He is willing to take risks in order to make himself a better craftsman, and produce a better craft. The real story of Jerry Seinfeld here is that he is starting over -- all new material -- in order to sharpen himself, to challenge himself and stay on top of the game. It's a huge risk that makes him a better craftsman.
Orny Adams is the portrait of an immature craftsman.
1. He is unable to maintain a healthy separation between himself and the craft. When a set doesn't go well, Orny takes it personally. It's like the audience is attacking is worth, his value as a person. He believes that if he is not funny, he is worthless. As a defense mechanism, he gets angry. At different points in the movie, he rages at a bad audience, a bad club, and a bad time slot.
2. Apparently, he has no life outside his work. He calls his mom once, to tell her he has one a contest. But it's clear he's unhappy, and it's quite possible it's because all he has and does and is is comedy.
3. He views other craftsmen in his field as threats and enemies. It's pretty clear that other comics respect Orny Adams, but none are his friends. At one point in the movie, another comic tries to give him some advice -- primarily about what I noted in point #2, that he needs to have a life outside of his comedy -- but he gives it like he's giving it to a rattlesnake about to strike. He is constantly verbally backing away, disclaiming, trying to say what he has to say without being struck. And Orny receives it like a rattlesnake. He cannot hear what the man has to say, and instead tells him what he ought to be saying to him. At another point, he says he has respect for Jerry Seinfeld, but it looks more like envy to me. He wonders at one point, if Jerry's success is not simply the result of luck.
(That may be misquoted in the movie. I got a strong sense while watching it that Orny doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut, and that the documentary editors cut pieces of his dialogue from their context to make what he says sound worse than it actually is.)
4. The prospect of taking risks with his craft makes him anxious and miserable. He has to take a pretty minor risk when he goes on Letterman -- he has to change one key word in his set -- and it gives him fits. He rages against the show, and is clearly a nervous wreck afterwards. The sad thing is, the risk worked. The bit was still funny. But his inability to separate his craft from himself (back to #1) mean that this risk absolutely wrecked him.
Orny Adams is a very talented comedian, and in all fairness, if we went back and watched Jerry Seinfeld twenty years ago, he probably would have looked much the same. Here's hoping that he matures into a competent craftsman. My advice to him would be to take some time off -- spend a year away from the circuit, away from comedy, so that he can establish an identity that isn't the craft. Then come back. If not, I have to agree with George Shapiro's words: "Yeah, Orny, I think you'll be big. But I think you'll still be unhappy."
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2002
The documentary "Comedian" provides a nuts-and-bolts, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of the stand-up comic. While it features a sea of familiar faces - Ray Romano, Gary Shandling, Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Bill Cosby - making what turn out to be little more than cameo appearances, the film focuses almost exclusively on two figures from the comedy nightclub scene: one well known, Jerry Seinfeld, and the other an up-and-coming, potential new star named Orny Adams. "Comedian" derives much of its meaning from the ironic juxtaposition of these two men. Seinfeld is a man who has managed to achieve what, for any comedian, would be the pinnacle of success - fame, fortune and international celebrity status - yet he still finds himself riddled with personal doubts and feelings of inadequacy every time he gets up to perform on stage. Adams, who has yet to get that "big break," somehow comes across as much more cocky, arrogant and self-assured than Seinfeld - although Adams, too, confesses that he may indeed be a harsher critic of his own performance than are the members of his audience.
"Comedian" was originally shot on video and transferred to 35 MM film, a fact that accounts for the dark, blurry, grainy quality of the picture. Most of the film's time is spent backstage with the comics as they air their views on their chosen profession, their colleagues, their personal idols, their various demons, their need to perform, their drive for perfection and their harsh, overly critical evaluation of their own skills and talents that often lead them into bouts of serious depression (Adams seems particularly prone to such reactions). These scenes are interspersed with brief snippets of some of their stand-up routines, which, surprisingly, seem rather devoid of laughs (Seinfeld has always struck me as more funny on his TV series than he ever has been on stage). One also notices that the world of the stand-up comic in this film is strictly an Old Boys Club. Perhaps, we will one day be treated to a sequel entitled "Comedienne" to give the distaff side of the profession its due.
"Comedian" is a very short film - it runs a mere 81 minutes - and, as a result, it feels a little superficial at times and even truncated at the end. We would like to see a bit more of the lives of these two men - Adams, in particular, seems to disappear from the film a bit prematurely - but it is a must-see for anyone interested in this unusual branch of the entertainment field. The film will make you view stand-up comedy in a whole new light.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2003
My wife is a Seinfeld fanatic. It used to get on my nerves ('honey, life is not a Seinfeld episode' I would tell her) and it took me some time to warm up to the show. After all, the characters are really just neurotic, selfish, and insensitive to anybody and everybody (which, ironically, is the shows saving grace). But it obviously worked because it was successful and is funny. In the later years it got to be a bit over the top and lost its charm. And it is this that Seinfeld realized. I believe this is why he wanted to get back to standup.
Seinfeld attempted, apparently quite live before the camera, what few comedians do. He wiped out his material that had taken him so many years to develop. He literally scratched it and began anew. It is this aspect that is most intriguing about the film. We see Seinfeld forget his material, we see him performing in small clubs and we see very human emotions eminate from him in regards to actually struggling to begin again. In a paradox, his status helps him get in the doors of clubs that no names would have a difficult time getting into but his big name also works against him in terms of expectation. You really can't go back again. But it gives great insight into what makes him so unique and so good at comedy. It really is serious business.
I give this four stars because Orny, the other comedian shown in the film, is just plain annoying. I never found him funny and his neuroses are so over the top and so out in the open that it becomes painful to watch him. I don't know if that was the point or if they merely had to include him because they had followed him for so long. Either way, it's a drag. Perhaps I am being too harsh and it does provide another view into what it's like to rise from being nobody to actually making a name for yourself in the comedy circuit.
If you are interested in what's behind the Seinfeld mystique, it's a great place to visit. Cameo appearacnes by other famous comedians adds to the film's depth. These are very real people and it's refreshing. It's not polished and it isn't Seinfeld the sitcom. It's a documentary but it's well worth it.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2003
The people who are giving this movie 1 or 2 stars are obviously people who are just looking for Jerry's standup routine on video, and they are sorely disappointed. These seem to be the same people who mistakenly think Orny Adams (the up-and-coming comic featured as prominently as Jerry) is an egomaniac and 'full of himself.' In reality, he is about as insecure and tortured with self-doubt as a person can get. He is a very interesting character and I don't agree with the 'thumbs up, Jerry, thumbs down Orny' opinion. This is a fascinating documentary, and Orny's travails give you real insight into the world of stand-up comedians. Since it was produced by Jerry, he probably 'sanitized' the footage of himself. Orny, on the other hand, is shown in raw and sometimes painful 3D. I highly recommend this film for anyone who wants to learn more about what goes on 'behind the scenes' at comedy clubs and the sometimes tortured life of a comedian.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
As others have said, this film is not a comedy, nor is it in anyway a show (like the brilliant, "I'm telling you for the last time") and even if you love Jerry's material immensely, you could be forgiven for feeling a little misled.
It is a very good documentary on what it takes to make it as a comedian in a very unforgiving and competetive business, and really is a film of two halves. We follow Jerry in one half of the movie as he retraces his roots, and attempts in a very short space of time to go back and work up from 10 minute Club routines, all the way to an hour long performance with completely new material. The other half of the movie has another up and coming (we think) comedian Orny Adams, and his struggles and pressures as he trys to make the big time. Unfortunately for me, despite the real "fly on the wall" direction, I found myself really not caring about the young Mr Adams, who appears rude, spoiled, arrogant, self absorbed and completely neurotic, and began to wonder why half the movie was dedicated to him, when the title on the box says - Jerry Seinfeld Comedian. In fact, to prove this point, one of the "extra's" is a short piece entitled "Where is Orny Now?" - considering this film was made over a year ago, and I'd never heard of him before watching, I guess you can figure out the answer.
The DVD has some saving graces however, with a couple of worthy deleted scenes, movie trailers, a good commentary selection plus the Letterman performances by both of the movie stars, amongst other things. However, sadly the whole thing get's a little numbing, and although I really wanted to rate this movie better,I couldn't. Truth is, most people will buy this hoping to see Jerry and his material, and then find as I did the very frustrating habit it has of cutting from scene to scene, just as you are beginning to actually see or hear his material. I found the other comedians shown to be weak for the most part (especially Mr Adams)and tried to savor the odd glimpses of very funny material, making the best of a bad hand, so to speak. Enjoy the movie, but don't expect too many laughs.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2005
One of the hardest things in this world is to make people laugh and when you do its very rewarding. Making your own friends laugh is one thing, because they get your humour, but making many people laugh and keep them laughing and interested in what you have to say is a very hard thing to do. You have to keep going and going. Comedian isn't all just about being funny, honestly its not that funny of a film(does have its moments), but it is very interesting once you've gotten deeper into the movie and know more of where its going with its point. Being a comedian has to be one of the hardest things to ever do, because you have to make people laugh or they wont like you and just forget you. Jerry Seinfeld is funny and very memorable due to mainly his show "Seinfeld". Very successful show that blew away people and really touched their funny bones. Even the big stars like Seinfeld get nervous before shows and know you have to know what you're doing, otherwise people will get bored. Comedy is hard, like it would be easier to do drama and make people cry then it is to make them laugh, comedy gets old too. You have to keep coming up with new and better material. So many people try to be funny and so many fail and are quickly forgotten. Comedian also portrays Orny Adams, a comedian in the film trying to make it big and make people laugh, I don't really find him that funny, it is very interesting what him and Jerry go through in the process of a successsful comedian. Sometimes it just doesn't work out the way they want. It's a lot of pressure to do a comedy act, this film shows how intense things can get in the comedy world. Yet, one of the best parts of the film is when Chris Rock and Seinfeld are chatting about Bill Cosby and how he was able to go a whole 2 and a half hour show and not take a break and people were not bored at all and kept laughing. Many have tried to be completely calm during a comedic performance and make people laugh the entire way through, but few have done it right and become legends of comedy with their own style and continue to have people love them for being funny. Jerry Seinfeld became very successful with comedy mainly due to "Seinfeld" (a brilliant show), but "Comedian", although not the funniest thing on earth by any means, it is very much worth a look, because it is interesting once you get what its about. It shows being a Comedian is hard work.
Behind the scenes look at being a comedian.
The trailers are amusing!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2006
Despite the confidence that most comedians project, this documentary showcases the fact that these often brilliant performers suffer from the same type of maladies as the rest of us. They are filled with anxiety, irritability, and ambition. By focusing on a legend, Jerry Seinfeld, and an unknown, Orny Adams, the audience discerns some of these characteristics and others which result in greatness on the stage. Examples evident are the need for compulsive attention to detail along with personal obsession over delivery and rehearsal. It's hard to imagine anyone going anywhere in that business without the concentrated efforts we witness here. It's surprising to find Adams watching tapes of himself and filling notebooks copiously with jokes and material.
Seinfeld is probably the most talented comedian that I've ever seen, but I never had any idea just how much effort he puts into his work. He labors for six months building, writing and performing until he becomes confident in the new shtick he has created. Even then we find that he is not satisfied. He is an intense perfectionist as is Adams, but the younger man is far less healthy than Seinfeld. Jerry may joke about neurosis but Adams appears to be the genuine article. He is oversensitive, self-doubting, agitated, abrasive, and fairly depressed, yet in every scene he tries to sell us on why he is so great. He doesn't really believe it and neither do we. When George Shapiro decides to represent him, he tells Adams something to the effect of that he's going to be a big success but will forever remain unhappy. Without knowing him well, Shapiro has already mastered his client. After Adams laments to Seinfeld that he has not made it, the genius puts it all in perfect perspective by asking him what exactly what he'd rather be doing with his life. Adams can give no answer which is itself an excellent answer and reflective of why these fellows sacrifice so much for their vocations. This is one of those films that would be impossible to quit watching in the middle as every character is engaging at some level.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2002
"Comedian" is a fascinating documentary of Jerry Seinfeld's return to standup comedy after ending arguably the most popular tv show of all time as well as retiring all of his old material. Although there are many funny moments in this film, it's really not a comedy - it's a documentary/"behind the scenes" look at the work Seinfeld put into getting back into the groove of coming up with new material and performing for all different types of audiences. Along the way, interesting conversations are documented between Seinfeld and other standup comedians including Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Garry Shandling, Jay Leno, and many others. The movie gives an inside look at how comedians create their sets, and how they feel about performing. It's fascinating to watch Jerry Seinfeld, worth probably 300million dollars, driving himself to small clubs in New York City to pop in unannounced to see if he can try out his new material for an unsuspsecting audience. One of the funniest parts of the movie is when Seinfeld must confront a noisy, talkative audience at a comedy club on Long Island, prompting him to say backstage, "How BIG do you have to be to get people to stop talking during your set?" Another interesting aspect of "Comedian" is that while it chronicles Seinfeld's return to standup, it also chronicles a younger, unknown, aspiring comedian and his struggle to become a famous comedian. The interaction between him and more skilled, experienced comedians is awkward and captivating all at once. I'm not a huge fan of Seinfeld - I loved his show, find a lot of his standup funny, but probably wouldn't see him live - yet I left this movie really liking it and suggesting it to everyone I know. I highly recommend this movie if you're a fan of Seinfeld's, any of the aforementioned comedians, or shows like "The Larry Sanders Show" or "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2003
I enjoyed Comedian for the glimpse of the not-so-public side of Jerry Seinfeld. I admire him for not taking the path of least resistance after his TV show ended. He could have gotten lazy and soft, making the occasional appearance on Leno and People magazine and otherwise doing not much of anything. Instead, he chose to throw away all his old material and undergo the apparently painful process of developing new routines and then polishing them in front of audiences. This film allows you to watch as the jokes don't work, as routines are completely forgotten onstage, as the audience talks and yells through his performance, and as he waits, alone, backstage, a bundle of nervous insecurity and doubt, before his performances. It does not look easy.
The other part of the film that warrants comment is the striving young comic Orny Adams whose struggle to become known is contrasted with Seinfeld, whose enormous popularity precedes him. The contrast is that Seinfeld is generally a very likable guy with a lot of warmth and humanity. His humanity shows not only during his act but offstage, as he speaks to people on the street, is respectful to everyone around him, and listens when other people talk. Orny Adams, by contrast, is a titanically
self-obsessed, massively irritating, bug-eyed motor-mouthed bore. He goes on and on about how talented he is. He complains that even though he is so talented he has to lower himself to actually perform in a comedy festival in Montreal. He obsesses about "what people in LA are saying about me right now...what deals are being made?". He displays for the camera all the notebooks full of jokes that he has written as evidence of the astonishing sacrifices he has made for his career. Excuse me, aren't you a comedian? Your job is to write jokes. Don't expect a medal because you did your job. The most telling and damning moment regarding Orny comes when an acquaintance comes backstage and gives Orny some outstanding advice, i.e. stop being so stridently ambitious and arrogant and let your work speak for itself, and as soon as the guy leaves the room Orny
dismisses the guy as a string of unprintable obscenities.
I realize I have spent a lot of my review focusing on Orny Adams. The film itself is interesting. Seinfeld is a very funny and talented comedian with enormous integrity and a huge work ethic. Orny Adams is profoundly unlikable, maniacally self-absorbed, and he makes me retch. Message to Orny: Go away.