Jerry Seinfeld is the definition of a successful comedian. He started in New York City, featured, showcased, and headlined the most popular clubs and most lauded clubs there, was a regular on Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and David Letterman, got a television deal for a series that was on one of the four majors and had complete creative control over, saw it become one of the most popular television series of all time, earned millions and then billions of dollars in syndication and is still held up as a genuinely funny guy throughout it all. So why did he have a documentary made about him struggling to get back into standup?
For someone who has tried it in the past and failed, I can tell you that stand up is very hard to pull off successfully. It takes years to build a truly funny act, feel comfortable with yourself on stage, and be able to make any money at it. So for most people who become stand ups they do it because they love it. They thrive on those laughs, work hours on their routine every day, and stay up into the wee hours of the morning performing anywhere they can get up. Jerry Seinfeld loves comedy and it shows at every moment in this film. When he is sitting with his comedian friends at a table working through bits and just talking about the hardships, when he is on stage bombing or forgetting the place he was at in his act or giving advice to Orny Adams, the other subject in the film, you can’t help but see his devotion to this art form. This is why he struggles to produce something new, why he goes through the headaches of having to go up after dancing bondage midgets or caring what he wears, it is all because he wants to be better comedian.
Orny Adams is a comic that is just starting out. He has been in New York City at the time and performing comedy full-time for about five years. He devotes hours upon hours watching himself on stage, taking notes, writing jokes, and getting up on stage for anywhere between five minutes and a half hour. However he doesn’t do these things because he loves comedy, but because he wants to be famous. He wants to be able to draw crowds in order to watch him spit his philosophy in life. He wants to have his own television series, make it on Letterman regularly and have a mansion in the sun. He considers himself one of the best comics around and is extremely cocky. He seeks advice from Seinfeld and other comics, but twists it so it validates his current thinking style. All of this doesn’t make him any less funny on stage.
Comedian is about the pursuit of fame and what to do with it once you have it. Seinfeld could have sat contented with his decade old material selling out theaters and arenas but he chose to experiment and write new material and with that comes anxiety. Orny Adams will probably be faced with a similar problem when he becomes famous. Will he stay the same or will he rest on his material that by the time he hits will be a decade long? Will he pull out that jewish joke folder again and again to pull from the same well? Let’s hope not.