21 June 2009

New Forms of Com-Docs

So Netflix has finally gotten their shit together and allowed us Mac users to watch films online, instantly! Actually, they started allowing us to watch instantly about 5 months ago. However, I've only really started to abuse this in the last few months. What has Aaron been spending his time watching? Never Forever? Cocaine Cowboys? Deliver Us From Evil? Back Door to Hell? Bad Guy?

Nope. I've been watching a type of documentary commonly called the concert film. Stand-up comedy concert films. I started out watching the old Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce and have moved onto current comedians (with the idea of catching them live next time they are in Cleveland). Doug Stanhope, Doug Benson, Joe Rogen, Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and the current king of stand-up (in my book) Zach Galifianakis.

In watching a few of these documentaries I began to notice a few trends that are different from the earlier concert films. Mainly the name of one man who is working behind the scenes as a director; Michael Blieden. Specifically, he directed the Doug Benson film Super High Me, the film & TV versions of The Comedians of Comedy and Joe Rogen: Live.

Super High Me has three parts. Part one, stand up comedy film showing off Doug Benson's style of comedy. Part two, behind the scenes in the "Alternative Comedy" scene. Part three, a look at the issue of partially legalizing pot in California. Joe Rogen Live is exactly what you'd expect-a live show of Joe Rogen's act. The enjoyment of this films is 100% predicated on whether or not you enjoy Rogen's sense of humor (which I don't), but is still a quality piece of documentary filmmaking.

The Comedians of Comedy documents the tour that Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and Zach Galifianakis did in the fall of 2004. Instead of playing in comedy clubs (with drink minimums) or on stage at theatres, they took their comedy to smaller venues/clubs that normally host indie label musical acts. The entire audience is standing for the whole show and the ticket prices are more affordable. This film is a favorite of mine as it mixes clips from their stand-up, skits that were performed off stage while on the road together and some insider scenes about how these four go about writing their material.

The film is Blieden's best work because it breaks new ground in Com-Doc filmmaking. If you are following around four comedians on the road, there is an interesting dynamic that I haven't seen in too many other Com-Docs. There is a form of friendly "one-upmanship" that takes place in several scenes, most notably when the three guys go out to eat at a local diner and take turns upping the ante on lame puns involving a bear (the sign that starts it says "Talk to the Paw").

So you get the standard behind the scenes, performance and hanging out footage, but, you also get a great skit show kind of comedy as well. It helps that all of these comedians are doing great and unique comedy. I just hope this format catches on.

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