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Comedian's Guide to Survival, The


Stars: James Buckley, Jimmy Carr, Paul Kaye, MyAnna Buring, Mark Heap, Gilbert Gottfried, Omid Djalili, Kevin Eldon, Gina Yashere, Tim McInnerny, Jalaal Hartley, James Mullinger, Vas Blackwood, Jeannette Belaouane, Eva Smite

Director: Mark Murphy

Despite the title, this occasionally amusing but eventually underpowered comic caper should not taken to be essential information for aspirant standups – such as, say, “Comedy for Dummies”.

Indeed, hopeful stand-ups would not survive long if they were to use writer/director Mark Murphy’s as a career template since it misses (deliberately, I assume) the most valuable and necessary of all warning – read the script first, before you decide to accept it.

There are just about enough jokes to keep you hoping for more and better but Murphy’s screenplay just isn’t that funny, despite over-frequent, over-frantic efforts by Inbetweeners star Buckley to raise laughs from a story whose narrative is mostly feeble, leaving poor Buckley and the gags – good (a few), bad (too many) and awful (far too many) - to carry the show as best they can.

Buckley knows only too well that spending long nights travelling to gigs all over the country, only to fail miserably on stage and end up facing humiliation, abuse and worse (his light trousers darken embarrassingly when stress has him urinate incontinently on stage after a dire joke involving a Beatle misfires), is getting him nowhere.

And, inevitably, putting both his marriage and his fortuitous daytime job as a magazine journalist under strain, he carries on laugh-less, admitting to himself “I’m like a rabbit caught in the headlights” and stating “I’ve been dying on my arse every night”.

Until, that is, his acid-tongued boss (Paul Kaye, far and away the best thing in the film) threatens him with dire consequences unless he gives up stand-up. Instead (more than just a tad improbably) he's assigned to write a comedy edition of the magazine and ends up in Los Angeles and Montreal interviewing a parade of real-life comics…

For a film with the word ‘comedy’ in the title there are precious few laughs, most of them served up by stand-up alumni including Omid Djalili, Gina Yashere, Tim McInnerny and Mike Ward, while giving Buckley (whose character is apparently based on real-life comic James Mullinger who is alive and well and living in Canada) too much spotlight.

In the end, however, the quote “You can’t succeed in comedy by guides and rules. It doesn’t work like that,” offers the most valuable advice the film has to give.

Alan Frank

UK 2016. UK Distributor: Signature Entertainment. Colour.
95 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 30 Oct 2016