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‘Dying Laughing’ (review)

Produced by Suli McCullough,
Lloyd Stanton, Paul Toogood

Directed by Lloyd Stanton, Paul Toogood
Featuring Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock,
Garry Shandling, 
Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman,
Frankie Boyle, Sandra Bernhard, Jamie Foxx,
Paul Provenza, Gilbert Gottfried, Mike Epps,

Jim Jefferies, Billy Connolly, Jerry Lewis

Full disclosure: I love all things stand-up. I devour the WTF with Marc Maron podcasts and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episodes, I’ve read more than a few books on the subject, and I’ve loved docs on stand-up, such as Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian.

The new documentary, Dying Laughing, from directors Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood, is a genuine gift to fans and students of stand-up comedy.

Yes, it’s 90% talking heads. No, there aren’t any Earth-shattering revelations or insights.

That said, there is much to savor here. First of all – big shock – it’s frequently very funny. Chris Rock and Seinfeld are on-target, as usual, and many of the other numerous comedians have some great lines and observations. Billy Connolly has some especially hysterical stories.

Also, there are a slew of hilarious, painful, humiliating and triumphant anecdotes about memorable gigs. There’s a particularly enjoyable and illuminating section on how many of these people dealt with – and deal with – hecklers.  Some of these stories are priceless.

Much is also made of what a lonely profession stand-up can be, and the serious toll it can take on relationships. Refreshingly, several comics admit fully that, right or wrong, comedy is more important to them than their families.

The film also serves as a wealth of advice for up and coming stand-ups. Several comics make a good case for honesty in their humor being a key element in their success, for example, and there are many other words of wisdom from the many seasoned vets interviewed here.

There are even some emotional moments; Royale Watkins breaks down while talking about bombing badly while one of his idols, Michael Jordan, was in the audience. And Tiffany Haddish is quite moving in relating how stand-up pretty much saved her life.

It’s also touching to see the late, great Garry Shandling here, and the film is in fact dedicated to him.
There’s so much more here for anyone interested in stand-up or showbiz in general. It may cover a well-worn subject, but Dying Laughing is a vital addition to documents about comedy.  A real gem.

Dying Laughing opens in theaters and On Demand February 24th.





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