Punching the Clown is neither a documentary nor a concert film, although it does star musical comedian Henry Phillips as Henry Phillips, a satirical folksinger, and it does incorporate much of his live act into a 91-minute narrative that manages to be both a lighthearted comedy and pointed parody of Hollywood.
The film, which won the audience award for best feature at Slamdance, as well as honors at multiple other festivals, opens its official cinematic run tonight at the Quad Cinema in New York City.
Let's take a look at the trailer, which includes a word or two to make it not safe for work. Roll the clip!
As Phillips describes his career arc to the late-night radio disc jockey, we see how Phillips decided after one hell gig too many (at a restaurant run by Eddie Pepitone), to ditch the road and move in with his failing actor in Los Angeles, and through one miscommunication and misunderstanding after another, finds himself failing upward. Phillips has others measuring his career against a more successful musical comedian named Stupid Joe (Mark Cohen), who audiences love for his many fart songs. The cast also features Chris Fairbanks, Nikki Glaser, Ryan Stout, Derek Waters, Mike O'Connell, and several Second City Alumni, including Paul Willson, Wade Kelley, Steve Sheridan and Sean Masterson.
Here's a scene at a party in the Hollywood Hills, with Phillips, Glaser and Stout, oh my!
More fun facts! Phillips and co-writer/director Gregori Viens first collaborated together on a 1997 documentary on the L.A. coffehouse open-mic scene, after meeting in 1993 when Phillips performed his first "open mic night" at the old Highland Grounds.
Viens and Phillips will be attending screenings this week in NYC, for brief Q&A sessions afterward at the following dates and times: Viens at 7:20 p.m. tonight Oct. 22; Viens at 7:20 p.m. Saturday Oct. 23; Viens at 3 p.m. Sunday Oct. 24; Viens at 7:20 Monday Oct. 25; and Phillips at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 26.
Here's one more quick clip to sample, in which Phillips explains his status as a musical comedian.