Producers/directors Paul Toogood and Lloyd Stanton enjoyed so much access to so many comedians over the last several years to make their documentary, This Is Stand-Up, which premiered Easter Sunday on Comedy Central. So much as, that to only have 82 minutes of footage to share, even in the longer uncensored version available online, means we as viewers don’t get much depth into the art form or the artists.
Instead, we hit all of the cliches about a stand-up comedy career, from early laughs as cut-up kids, to the traumas of open mics, to the grind and the mundane realities of life on the road, to dealing with heckling and bombing, to finding your voice, to the darkness that you mine for comedy, and the other darkness that may exist for a comedian in his/her personal life offstage.
If you missed the premiere last night, then you can watch This Is Stand-Up online via Comedy Central. That’s if you have a cable subscription. If not, then you still can get a 24-hour viewing pass from Comedy Central.
Of course, if you’re brand-new to comedy or comedians, then these 82 minutes are filled with eye-opening scenes and revelations.
If you’re in the comedy game, perhaps the most unique piece of insight comes from Chris Rock, when he says the most important thing for a stand-up to know is something that rarely gets talked about: Can you hold an audience’s attention, any audience? “It’s all about getting people to pay attention,” Rock says.
You can tell that the interview sessions go back several years, not only because of how some of the comedians have aged, but also how one of them, the late great Garry Shandling, had died four years ago in March 2016.
Some footage capturing the comedians live onstage dates to March 2017, including Sebastian Maniscalco at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, or the Comedy Get Down tour in Florence, S.C.
Other comedians who get both interviews and ride-alongs for live stand-up footage include Jay Mohr, Judd Apatow, Maria Bamford, Theo Von, an open mic at the Hollywood Improv, Taylor Tomlinson, Mia Jackson, Jessica Kirson (same show as Mia), Kevin Nealon, Bert Kreischer, D.L. Hughley, Beth Stelling, Jim Norton, Gina Brillon, and Bobby Lee. For them, the extra time allows you to learn a little more about their particular stories, obstacles and triumphs. But like I said, not that much more. Even if you just followed those 16 or so acts, in 82, that’s only five minutes each. Maniscalco gets interviewed on the tour bus on the way to Orlando, talking about working 200 gigs a year. He doesn’t need to worry about that lifestyle in 2020. Then again, no comedians do.
Maybe they should have called this, This WAS Stand Up.
What is, what will be stand up? That’s an answer we’re all curious about, and nobody has the answer right now.