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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Comic genius and award-winning performer, Jerry Seinfeld, from the award-winning TV series, Seinfeld, stars in Comedian, a hilarious, behind-the-scenes look at the backstage life of stand-up comics!

Director:
Christian Charles
Cast:
Jerry Seinfeld, Orny Adams, Bill Cosby, Mario Joyner, Robert Klein, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Garry Shandling, George Wallace
Writing Credits:
NA

Tagline:
A film about comedy with Jerry Seinfeld
Box Office:
Opening weekend $60,224 on 4 screens.
Domestic gross $2.744 million.
MPAA:
Rated R.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/13/2003

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Christian Charles and Producer Gary Streiner
• Audio Commentary with Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn
• Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams’ Complete Late Show with David Letterman Performances from the Film
• Deleted Scenes with Commentary from the Director and the Producer
• Jiminy Glick’s Interviews with Jerry Seinfeld and Orny Adams
• “Where Is Orny Now?” Short Film
• Complete Advertising Campaign
• Notes from Jerry Seinfeld
• Orny Adams and Colin Quinn on Developing Material


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RELATED REVIEWS


Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 6, 2003)

After he ended his immensely successful TV series in 1998, Jerry Seinfeld laid low for quite a while. (Perhaps he needed the time to count all his money – syndication made Jerry an exceedingly wealthy man.) Over the last couple of years, however, Seinfeld’s returned to the scene, mostly via a return to his roots. While his main Seinfeld co-stars attempted – and failed – to star in their own sitcoms, Jerry went back to the clubs and restarted his career as a stand-up comic.

Comedian documents his return to the stage. The film begins with his early impromptu gigs at New York clubs where he tries out new material. He commiserates with fellow comics like Colin Quinn, George Wallace, Ray Romano, Chris Rock and Robert Klein, and we get some insights into Seinfeld’s thought processes and how he works out new material. The film follows Seinfeld’s path as he tries to build up his act to the magical threshold of 75-90 minutes, which then gives him a full headlining routine.

In addition, Comedian depicts the attempted rise to stardom of little-known New York comic Orny Adams. We see his stage act and watch as Seinfeld’s manager George Shapiro signs him. Adams goes to a prestigious Montreal comedy festival; if he succeeds there, he may go on to bigger and better things. Orny also plays the Letterman show and seems to move up the ladder of success.

On the negative side, Comedian lacks much focus. The filmmakers jump between Adams and Seinfeld with little apparent logic, and this makes the movie more scattered than it should be. The flick essentially forgets one or the other for fairly long stretches, and it doesn’t intercut them very neatly.

However, I can easily forgive that fault when the rest of the movie seems so engrossing. Comedian could have become little more than a star vehicle for Seinfeld to get himself back before the public eye, and I worried that we’d not see anything other than happy-happy joy-joy for Jerry. That doesn’t occur. No, we don’t find out anything particularly nasty about Seinfeld, but he seems significantly more open and frank than I expected. We see great bits where he develops routines, and it’s fascinating to watch the tough parts. When someone gets as successful as Seinfeld, we assume it’s all easy, but clearly he continues to suffer from the same insecurities that he had back before he became a star.

Speaking of which, Adams appears to be one big insecurity. This line from Orny represents his personality well: “I got everything I wanted this year, and I’ve never been more stressed and more miserable.” Actually, that comment may not communicate as much about him as it should, for it doesn’t demonstrate what an obnoxious jerk Adams seems to be. Totally obsessed with success and relentlessly insecure, Adams actually has some talent; he offers some funny material in the supplements. However, his personality so strongly annoyed me that I actually rooted for him to fail as I watched the movie.

I have to admit, though, that Adams’ bits were probably the more compelling parts of Comedian. To some degree, we know where the Seinfeld story will go. It’s cool to watch him behind the scenes and see what his life as a comedian is like, but it’s not like there’s much chance anything genuinely surprising will happen to him. No, I didn’t expect to get a segment like the one in which Jerry bombs on stage when he loses his train of thought, but it still remains inevitable that he’ll end the film on a positive.

Since he remains essentially unknown, Adams’ tale is less predictable. And while he may be a jerk, he’s a charismatic jerk, and he appears to feel no need whatsoever to censor himself for the movie cameras. That means makes the most of his segments, for better or for worse. I didn’t like the guy at all, but his parts of the film seem very entertaining.

Virtually all of Comedian appealed to me, really. The movie contrasts the paths taken by a little-known comic and one of the world’s most famous, and while it doesn’t do this in a consistently smooth manner, the material’s very compelling and incisive. Comedian offers a cool look behind the scenes and seems quite enjoyable.

Pursestrings footnote: as I watched this low-budget flick, I was astonished to hear songs from very well-known artists like Paul McCartney (“Momma Miss America”, “Smile Away”), the Rolling Stones (“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”), Steely Dan (“Deacon Blues”) and others. How’d they afford these tracks? They can’t come cheaply. Perhaps the presence of gajillionaire Seinfeld as executive producer paid those bills, but I was very surprised to hear such expensive talent.


The DVD Grades: Picture C / Audio B- / Bonus A-

Comedian appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Shot on consumer-grade video cameras, Comedian won’t win any prizes for stellar visual quality. However, given the source material, I thought the transfer looked fine.

Sharpness varied somewhat but generally remained solid. The image never became particularly crisp and detailed, but it also rarely displayed notable problems related to softness. The picture took on a reasonably accurate but not razor-sharp look that matched what I’d expect for this kind of project. Occasional jagged edges cropped up, but those remained pretty minor for video material, and I saw no issues with shimmer or edge enhancement. Source flaws popped up frequently in the form of video artifacts. Those elements made the picture look fairly grainy, especially in low-light situations. Otherwise the movie demonstrated no issues related to source defects.

Even with the best film equipment, the world of Comedian’s nightclubs wouldn’t present brilliant hues. With everything shot on video, the colors looked even less vivid. The tones appeared fairly lackluster and drab throughout the flick. They weren’t really bad, but they didn’t demonstrate much life or vivacity. Blacks came across as somewhat brownish and faded, while shadow detail varied. The movie featured some scenes with very little light, and those looked quite opaque. Generally these situations appeared acceptably distinct, however. Objectively, Comedian looked pretty bad, but I felt that since it represented the source material accurately, it merited a “C” for picture.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Comedian worked a little better than the image, but it didn’t present anything spectacular either. For the most part, the soundfield remained monaural. Music showed good stereo imaging, and the songs also spread nicely to the rear at times. Otherwise, the track featured a heavy center bias. On a few occasions, the side channels opened up to give us decent ambience, but those instances happened infrequently.

As one might expect from a documentary presentation, audio quality varied, but the piece usually sounded fine. Speech suffered from the most concerns. At times I found it tough to make out what participants said, but that seemed inevitable given the mix of circumstances in which they were filmed. In general, dialogue appeared acceptably clear and intelligible. Effects played a major role and lacked much presence, but they remained fairly natural and distinct.

The only element not recorded “on the fly”, music fared very nicely. The melange of songs appeared quite robust and lively, as the tunes presented good clarity and solid low-end response. Without the high quality of the music, I’d have needed to drop my score considerably, but the songs sounded so good that I felt Comedian earned a “B-“ for audio.

Packed with a lot of extras, Comedian includes some good materials. It features two separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Christian Charles and producer Gary Streiner. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific track. The pair provide a reasonably solid examination of the project. They discuss some of the technical concerns related to the use of video cameras but mostly fill in some gaps in regard to on-screen information. For example, they mention “cheats” that left out some parts of scenes and also go over snippets they decided not to include in the movie. They let us know more about the reality behind the situations and flesh out the flick to a degree. They rely on too much praise for the film and its participants, unfortunately, which makes the commentary drag at times, but the pair generally give us a nice glimpse behind the scenes of Comedian.

Less informative but more entertaining, the second commentary features comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn, both of whom also chat together for their running, screen-specific discussion. At times, the guys add some insight. They discuss theories about comedy and how they work out material, and it’s great to get the scoop behind particular parts of Comedian; to hear Seinfeld tell his feelings during a scene when he bombs is quite interesting.

However, the commentary lacks a great deal of concrete information, as it usually just presents the pair as the gab and crack on the movie and each other. They don’t fire on all comedic cylinders, but they offer more than enough funny remarks to make this an amusing track. Heck, I don’t even mind the fact they ate throughout the whole film; that normally would seem annoying, but here it adds to the piece’s casual charm. I expected a lot from this commentary and worried it’d disappoint me, but instead I definitely enjoyed the Seinfeld/Quinn track.

Next we get a collection of five deleted scenes. These run between 68 seconds and four minutes, 14 seconds for a total of 14 minutes, 22 seconds of footage. The first four focus on Seinfeld, while the last one shows Orny Adams as he moves to LA. All of the Seinfeld clips are good, as we see his worries before gig, his struggles with material, and other elements. The Adams bit seems less compelling. Lots of time deleted scenes consist of crap, but not here, as the clips merit a screening.

One can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Charles and Streiner. They provide a little background on the snippets and also relate why the scenes didn’t make the cut. Their remarks prove to be informative and useful.

In the Advertising domain, we get a bunch of features. We find the movie’s creative trailer - presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround audio – plus three similarly amusing TV spots and a radio ad that reworks the trailer. Interestingly, the radio ad uses Seinfeld as a voice and Colin Quinn as an announcer, whereas neither appears in the trailer itself.

Up next we get a stillframe image of the film’s theatrical one-sheet plus a frame that shows eight wild posters; those offer the same photo as the one-sheet but present different text. Lastly, “Advertising” finishes with a thumbnailed collection of 14 action figures. These depict people like Adams, Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Robert Klein and others from the movie. The final still shows a vending machine that purports to sell the toys. They offer a funny addition to the set.

After this come two Jiminy Glick Interviews. We find a segment with Seinfeld (seven minutes, eight seconds) and one with Adams (six minutes, 37 seconds), both of whom went on the show to promote the film. Both clips are simply hilarious and offer a great deal of fun.

For more TV material, we go to the Letterman appearances department. This includes both Adams’ December 13, 2000 gig (five minutes, 42 seconds) and Seinfeld’s March 12, 2001 stint (six minutes, 58 seconds). While we see parts of them during the movie, it’s nice to find them in their entirety here. For the record, Adams’ set is actually pretty funny; once we separate him from his real personality, the guy shows some talent.

Speaking of Adams, next we find a two-minute and 48-second featurette called Where Is Orny Now? The piece quickly updates Adams’ career since the end of the movie shoot. It turns out he’s not doing a whole lot, a fact supported by his website (www.ornyadams.com).

Finally, Anatomy of a Joke splits into three subdomains: “Jerry’s Notes”, “Orny’s Notes”, and “Colin’s Notes”. Each of these offers one screen apiece with text prepared by the comic in question. While this sounds like a cool bit of insight, it doesn’t work very well, largely because it can be tough to make out the writing. Between his handwriting and the size of the screen, Seinfeld’s text was virtually illegible, and I also found it tough to read Adams’ computer-printed notes because they were too small. Only Quinn’s broad penmanship appeared mainly decodable.

Comedian didn’t attract much attention during its limited theatrical release, but hopefully the movie will get new life on DVD. The film offers a fun and lively look behind the scenes at the lives of two stand-up comics, and despite some poor pacing at times, it remains generally provocative and fascinating. The DVD presents picture and sound that seem mediocre, but they represent the source material well. It also comes with a very nice roster of informative and entertaining extras that strongly enhance the value of this package. Stand-up fans should definitely give Comedian a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4166 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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