Take a Drink: each time antidepressants are mentioned
Take a Drink: for celebrity name-dropping! (Double it if the celebrity named also appears in this film)
Tom Hanks and Larry David’s interviews were obviously stolen from director Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show video podcast. Drink a Shot: for the audio/film quality change when they appear.
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Actor/Comedian Kevin Pollak sets out to determine if the old adage “You have to be miserable to be a comedian” is actually true. To accomplish this, he bends the ear of his comedy and motion picture peers, to hopefully develop a thesis. Is it impossible to break into comedy without past or current trauma to guide the way? Is depression something that is unique to funny people?
No stranger to show business, filmmaker Kevin Pollak has worked on stage and in studios in comedy. By his practiced hand, he is able to get the 50+ actors and comics to speak quite frankly about their experiences with depression, with stress, and with failure, all of which the film argues can contribute to comedy.
Moreover, though, the film points out that it isn’t simply comedians who experience misery. Pollak argues that comedians are one of humanity’s conduits for handling the rougher edges of life. This is accomplished all without any voiceover narration, simply through the string of filmed conversations and interview segments Pollak has with his peers. A good performance from an actor or comedian can carry the weight of the world, shouldering the burden for the audience, if only for a little while.
Considering this is Pollak’s directoral debut, it is very admirable that he is able to communicate so much without the use of an obvious narrative device. Of course, much of this is due to the work of a talented editor who no doubt helped Pollak along the way.
Viewers may be surprised how little of the film is spent being funny, despite speaking to so many comedians. This is of course due to the heavier subject matter being explored. That said, Kevin Pollak is a man who can get laughs with just a funny voice and a Chinese menu, so for every dark corner of Misery Loves Comedy is just the right amount of humor to liven things up.
Fascinating as the conversation is, Misery Loves Company never fully coalesces with a definitive statement on the subject. Mostly, the interview subjects just share their own views and Pollak & team cut it together in a series of personal stories. Without a central guiding force, the film can sometimes feel like it isn’t sure what it is trying to say. Pollak’s podcast chat show has proved that he has the interview skills which should be able to guide the conversation. It is unfortunate, then, that he all but cuts his own voice out of the discussions unless absolutely necessary.
One of the chief criticisms which has been launched at Misery Loves Comedy is the demographic make-up of the film (the majority of interview subjects are white male comics). This complaint isn’t without merit, as it certainly would have fleshed out the film’s premise to see comedians from all areas of the field discuss the subject. That said, it is also unfair to cast aspersions, as the film is nothing if not earnest in its exploration of the overall subject.
Misery Loves Comedy attempts to determine what exactly what humor feeds on, and off of. And is mostly successful, even if a definitive explanation is never found in the narrative.