Even before its world premiere this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, Kevin Pollak’s TV misery (spoiler alert!) can be pushed aside for joy and gratitude as his new stand-up comedy documentary, Misery Loves Comedy, has been picked up for North American distribution by Tribeca Film.
“Misery Loves Comedy is a fascinating, unparalleled look inside the minds of some of the greatest and most beloved comedians of our time. Kevin Pollak has made a ‘must watch’ on the art of comedy, for casual enthusiasts, to connoisseurs, to aspiring comedians,” Todd Green,General Manager of Tribeca Film, said today.
When Pollak turned to Kickstarter in September 2013, he described his film pitch:
You may know me as an actor, but did you know that I started as a stand-up? Did you? Just answer the question so I can go on. Yes, that’s right, Comedy Central did name me one of the Top 100 Comedians of All Time. Thanks for pointing that out. Now, while I’ve been fortunate to act in a number of movies, I don’t know the exact number—74—six of which, terrific—Nothing I’ve ever done as an actor will ever beat the feeling of being on a stage as a comedian and taking the audience for a ride of my choosing for an hour. To live or die by your own wits; moment by moment, ever-aware that a debilitating defeat could be waiting around the next punchline… If you’re a fan of stand-up comedy, and those who perform it, you’re no doubt aware that a staggering percentage are truly miserable. We’ve lost number of great comedians to drugs, alcohol and suicide. How can they be so entertaining to strangers and so filled with sadness and/or rage with family and friends…? The main goal of this film is to shed extensive light on this bizarre dichotomy … It’s gonna be a hoot!
So you know, this documentary isn’t going to just be about funny people fighting depression. Oh, heck no. For example, here’s a fun fact for ya: Public speaking is America’s number one fear, above death… It’s true. So, who is this person who chooses to stand alone in front of a room full of strangers and try to make them laugh…? What’s that? Oh, ya say you like to make your friends laugh at parties? I don’t blame you. It’s fun as hell. Try it, though, in front of people who don’t know you; who’ve never heard of you; who will not think you’re funny—until you prove them wrong… Still, the fact is the average person would rather die than have to speak in public. Yet, the stand-up comedian is usually more comfortable on stage than he or she is off.
I’ve always been fascinated by the dark and the light of the comedian. My hope is that we uncover more about them than any of us think we know. When I reached out to the funny people that I’ve met or worked with over the years to share their experiences, recollections or observations, the response to participate in this film was instant, if not overwhelming.
You can see Christopher Guest above. His portrait as well as Amy Schumer and Tom Hanks are included on the Sundance site. Watch Pollak explain his film project:
In advance of Sundance, Pollak posted several quick soundbites to YouTube from comedians including Jimmy Fallon, Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan, Jim Norton, Penn Jillette, Marc Maron, Kevin Nealon, Jimmy Pardo, David Koechner, Bob Saget, Jemaine Clement, Bobby Slayton, and here’s a quote from Jim Gaffigan about how self-absorbed comedians can be.