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Dying Laughing


Stars: Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Amy Schumer, Billy Connolly, Steve Coogan, Jerry Lewis, Kevin Hart, Cedric the Entertainer, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Jo Brand, Sandra Bernhard, Sarah Silverman, Omid Djalili, Eddie Izzard, Tiffany Haddish, Lee Mack, Victoria Wood, Frank Skinner, Keenan Ivory Wayans

Director: Lloyd Stanton, Paul Toogood

The first thing you should know about this documentary on stand-up comedians is that there are no jokes, although some of the experiences they relate may make you smile.

Many of the 'talking head' interviewees (many more than those listed above), however, give the impression of how miserable and depressed their lives are and that they only come alive when performing on stage, even given the rising panic that comes when they know they're bombing.

Some talk of interacting with the audience, although this is nothing new: Bob Hope, Jack Benny and other old-time comedians used to play off their audiences constantly to augment their laughs.

There's a large section on heckling and reacting to it, while one comic tells of the 'one real human moment' in his pre-prepared patter that enabled him to see the direction in which his act should be going.

Many point out the grind of performing far from the glitz of Vegas or London's West End, in depressing, far-flung locations. Seinfeld sums it all up, perhaps, when he declares that a comedian's success may depend on 'your ability to suffer self-torture'.

The interviews themselves are filmed in black and white, with a few rather meaningless colour location shots in between. But, though the interviewees' full-on delivery of their recollections gets a bit wearing at times, there are some fruitful moments here and there. It's not really a film, of course, and will look at its most effective on late-night TV.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: 40/45 Films. Black and white/colour.
88 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

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

Review date: 12 Jun 2017