In his directorial debut, Kevin Pollak signs on an impressive roster of actors, comedians, stand-ups, writers, and more, all to come together and answer one of the most dumbfounding questions known comedy lovers everywhere: do you truly have to be miserable in order to be funny?
Actors from Sam Rockwell, Bobby Cannavale, Matthew Perry, Nick Swardson, William H. Macy, Tom Hanks, Maria Bamford, Lisa Kudrow, and more were on film talking about comedy and how they came to it, as were writer/directors Jon Favreau, Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow, Larry David, Marc Maron, Lewis Black, and more. And of course, a large score of comedians were in attendance, such as Jimmy Fallon, Amy Schumer, Martin Short, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Guest, Greg Proops, Jimmy Pardo, Penn Jillete, Jim Gaffigan, David Koechner, Kevin Nealon, Rob Delaney, James L. Brooks, Andy Richter. And of course a whole lot more people that offer some insight on how they got their start.
Dedicated to Robin Williams, it seems almost fitting the question asked is if misery truly makes comedy. With an amazing list of stars such as those above, the answer has to be somewhere in there.
The problem I found with having such a great cast of characters is that, well, you never really get to the question. Sure some people touch upon it, like Swardson talking about his time in rehab or Bamford talking about rehab, or Short talking about his breakdown, and even Prinze Jr. talking about his father’s suicide. However, all the other interviews sound like it was Pollak’s time to just have fun and get lunch with them. Most of the interviews were the people going over how they got their start in comedy, or sometimes, not. Macy and Rockwell, be it having held some comedic roles, had nothing to offer for the documentary, and others took too much time recounting one moment of their life in which they made people laugh, but never going truly in depth with the subject matter.
Misery Loves Comedy was entertaining nonetheless, but it was more of anecdotes you wish you heard if you were best friends with the people talking, as opposed to anecdotes that answered the “misery” question. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great knowing what some of your favorite comedians think about moments of their lives and such, but when the film is titled Misery Loves Comedy and the first thing you hear is the question “Do you need to be miserable in order to be funny?” well then I expect an answer to that question. And not that it wasn’t brought up, but it was brought up a bit too late. The movie was almost over at that point when Pollak popped the question, leading to multiple “uhhs” and “errs” until people said yes and no answers.
Sure their anecdotes helped a bit, but still the question was left vaguely answered at best. But you can’t blame Pollak for it, it’s an opinion answer, something that he hoped to answer not by facts but by experience of those he was asking. For his first try at directing, it was a new experience and not faulty at all. However, seeing that some of the guests mentioned things that were not fully explained or followed through with, one can’t help but think what parts made the film and what parts were cut. There were certain times that people would say things that just needed more explaining, and they ended up having such small parts in the doc that you ask yourself why were they there in the first place.
Misery Loves Comedy is not without its flaws, and it’s nowhere near a jaw-dropping directorial debut on Pollak’s part. However, this documentary is a great pull for anyone who enjoys watching films and loves learning about these comedians/actors “catching a break” stories.