VOD film review: Dying Laughing
Andrew Jones | On 23, Jun 2017
Directors: Paul Toogood, Lloyd Stanton
Cast: Kevin Hart, Steve Coogan, Amy Schumer
Watch Dying Laughing online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Amazon Instant Video
The sad clown is perhaps the most overused piece of ironic detachment in modern society – a new Showtime show, I’m Dying Up Here, is all about funny people who are sad when not telling jokes – but it keeps coming back, because it is so very true. From Judd Apatow’s Funny People to Kevin Pollak’s documentary, Misery Loves Comedy, time and time again we’ve had introspective naval gazing from inside the comedy world about what it is to bring laughter to others, and what it feels like to need to make others laugh to feel good about yourself. Dying Laughing is the latest collage of interviews with prominent names from both sides of the pond, discussing process, life, love and anguish within the world of stand-up.
From Kevin Hart and Jamie Foxx to Steve Coogan, Stewart Lee to Jason Manford, Sarah Silverman to Dave Attell, Amy Schumer to Garry Shandling, Victoria Wood to Billy Connelly, Gilbert Gottfried to Cedric The Entertainer, and Frankie Boyle to Jo Brand, the list of interviewees is tremendous, but it doesn’t leave much time for each to say something besides ‘comedy is hard, there’s no shortcuts, sometimes you get sad, sometimes you get punched’. The anecdotes that come out are often funny, naturally, but we whizz past someone’s entire life in comedy to get to hear one night when someone bombed in front of Michael Jordan. We miss out on some possibly big moments in comedy history, or some insight, for the funny stories. That’s not to say funny stories are not welcome, but a documentary needs more than a series of anecdotes to work. There’s no mission statement in Dying Laughing; it feels aimless.
The interviews are presented in black-and-white, and illustrated with colourful stock footage and shots of comedy clubs, sometimes with, sometimes without, humans occupying them. Naturally, because it’s how these people make their living, no stage material is present in the documentary from any interviewee, only the jokes they make as they talk to the documentarians. This means that the film just trundles along, and plays nicely as a podcast as much as it does a documentary film, without anything truly visual occurring throughout.
While it’s nice to see such a vast array of comedians, known and lesser known, talking about their craft, from the great times to the bombs, it feels like well trodden ground that doesn’t dig up anything new, as it bounces along, happy just to celebrate the concept of stand-up and back-slap for 90 minutes. If you want to see many of your favourite funny people talking about their passion, Dying Laughing has that for you, but for anyone wanting to sink their teeth deeper in the world of road comics, the writing of stand-up or the pain and anguish of a bombing session, this film will not enlighten you as much as you may want.
Dying Laughing is available to buy and rent on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.