Jerry Seinfeld fans might be wondering what the legendary comedian is up to these days. After Seinfeld’s hit TV sitcom ended in 1998, he returned to stand-up comedy and has been touring ever since. “Comedian,” a documentary directed by Christian Charles and produced by Jerry Seinfeld, reveals what a comedy career is really like and how one even gets started.
“Comedian” focuses on Seinfeld’s career through interviews with his friends and other comedians, along with several clips from his early gigs all the way up to his recent Broadway shows. It is interesting to look back on the rise to fame Seinfeld made, starting with his small audience at the Gotham Comedy Club in Manhattan where he once completely “lost his point,” and is shown staring at his notes in silence trying to remember what his next line. Next thing we know, Seinfeld is seen giving advice to the up-and-coming Orny Adams, who is starting to make a name for himself in the comedy world.
“Comedian” surprisingly places strong emphasis on Adams’ career, when one may have expected the film to focus primarily on Seinfeld. Adams provides many entertaining and informative anecdotes, but we don’t hear this much from Seinfeld. One may be left feeling somewhat let down by the imbalance. Watching Seinfeld trying to get Adams to relax, however, and stop worrying so much, reveals the level of confidence Seinfeld has with his career and how it’s important not to take his craft too seriously. At one point, he wittingly comments to the audience in one of his routines, “So what have I been doing lately? Nothing!”
Even though Charles intends on showing the life of an up-and-comer, he still finds time to include some of the profession’s all-time greats. Seinfeld discusses the intricacies of comedy with the likes of Colin Quinn, Jay Leno and Bill Cosby, to name a few. If one hasn’t witnessed much of Seinfeld’s off-stage personality, he or she can see most of it in these candid conversations. Seinfeld is cool and calm for the most part, and in no way “hogs” for attention. His interview with Cosby paints Seinfeld as the most humble of fans. Seinfeld sits in awe of Cosby’s endurance and his successful two-and-a-half hour shows, which is an exceptionally long time in terms of stand-up comedy. Seinfeld mentions how 45 minutes is a long stretch for him to go without a break.
“Comedian” also introduces the audience to George Shapiro, Seinfeld’s agent. In one scene, Adams is shown in an interview with Shapiro where the agent asks the young comedian to work under him. Adams is elated and finds it hard to believe that Shapiro would actually be interested. Shapiro explains how he simply enjoys working with good comedians, and Adams has a lot going for him.
There is not a tight chronological order in which “Comedian” is arranged, but it seems to move successfully from the beginning of Seinfeld’s career to his life now. The director demonstrates a great choice of interviews and experience in knowing what dialogue to incorporate to deliver the greatest impact. Some lines and witticisms just stand out and are worth noting, especially for those who love Seinfeld’s comedy. For example, Seinfeld likens the feeling of being a stand-up comedian to going to work wearing only your underwear. He explains how the situation is one in which it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stay relaxed and comfortable while on stage. It feels quite unnatural.
“Comedian” is a celebration of comedy, and it is an honest assessment of what the career is really like. It can take years and years for one to finally be noticed, and on top of that, one may never feel completely satisfied with his or her progress. Even Seinfeld admits that his attitude is just that, proclaiming, “This is not good enough.” It is most likely this attitude that has got him to where he is today.