Dir: Kevin Pollack
Finally, a movie where comedians get to talk about themselves. Kevin Pollack’s documentary exploring the psyche of stand-up comedians is titled Misery Loves Comedy. From this you’d expect the film to delve deep into the idea that sadness and depression acts as fuel for creative inspiration. Comedians, in particular, often think that to be funny, you need to be miserable. Pollack does tackle this question, but the film spends most of the running time discussing stand-up in general terms. What drives a person to go out in front of a crowd and be funny for money?
Fans of stand-up comedy will likely know already. There are by now countless podcasts released every week that touch upon similar subjects. Most episodes of WTF With Marc Maron feature one-on-one interviews with comedians that go into far more depth than Misery Loves Comedy does. Then you’ve got the likes of Never Not Funny, Nerdist, and even Kevin Pollack’s own podcast. Jordan Brady’s documentary from 2010, I Am Comic, deals with much of the same thematic elements. Misery Loves Comedy doesn’t bring much new to the comedy table.
In fairness, Pollack has assembled a mighty team of comedians to talk shop. The likes of Paul F. Tompkins, Maria Bamford and Marc Maron rub shoulders with old pros like Bob Saget and Christopher Guest. The UK is repped by Stephen Merchant and Steve Coogan. All the interviewees have wisdom to impart, and are often very funny while doing so. On the other hand, Misery Loves Comedy isn’t a laff riot. It takes comedy very seriously indeed.
Misery Loves Comedy isn’t a flashy film. There are no real visual flourishes aside from quick bursts of vintage photographs of the comedians in question. It might have been better if they’d shown vintage video clips of the acts instead. Then we might have gotten some better jokes. It’s not bad, and comedy fans should give it a shot, but you’d learn just as much from listening to just about any comedy podcast. It’s not a bomb, but it hardly kills.