Review of WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL!

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When I first heard about this Documentary, I got pretty excited.  It’s about the birth of modern stand-up comedy.  Famous comedians tell stories about the comedy hotspot in the Catskill Mountains.  I, myself, started doing stand-up about 2 years ago, so I was eager to watch the masters talk about the good ole’ days.  Mainly, it focuses on Jewish comedians and how they cut their teeth in the Catskills.

Or so I thought…  The movie begins on a very, very cheap note.  Robert Klein appears on-screen, talking to us like he was on an AFI Celebration special as he introduces the movie.  It has a very “television special” feel to the whole thing.  And then the titles come on the screen over a pretty amateurish montage of the comedians you’ll be seeing throughout the film.  I don’t know about you, but when I go to the theater, I expect my “movies” to be well put together.

Okay, so we have some famous comedians reminiscing about their early days, like Jackie Mason (who looks fucking scary thanks to plastic surgery, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Stiller, Larry King and Mort Sahl).  Occasionally, one of them will tell an interesting story, like when Larry King talks about losing his virginity for the first time when he worked as a busboy at the Hotel.  But most of the time it’s just a bunch of egos talking about how great it used to be, and how it was really hard back then and only the greatest could have survived and yadda yadda yadda.  It gets repetitive very quickly.

The major problem is that this Documentary doesn’t know what it wants to be about.  Is it about the Catskills?  Is it about the birth of stand-up comedy?  Is it about how to become a comedian?  Is it about the importance of the Jewish comedian?  Is it about how much better comedians were in the old days compared to these new up starts?  …..Well….. it tries to be all of these things, but since there is absolutely no focus, it ends up not being about any of these things.

This is a very sloppy Documentary.  I love most of these comics that appear throughout.  I love Lenny Bruce and George Burns, but the movie doesn’t know what to do with their footage.  It simply just shows the footage without really saying anything about these clips.  It’s not even 80 minutes, but this film drags on and on, making it feel at least twice as long.  With its Television production values, Karaoke quality soundtrack, and poorly focused narrative, these legendary comedians definitely deserve something better than this.        ★½ (out of ★★★★)

– Not rated but contains PG-13 level language.

– Running time: 1hr 16min.



Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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