Judge Katie Herrell thinks this is just like Buffalo Bill's classic Wild West Show, only with more stand-up comedy and less degrading fake wagon train attacks by out of work Indian chiefs.
He's taking this show on the road and you're riding shotgun.
Facts of the Case
Vince Vaughn rounds up four up-and-coming, struggling, nobody (you pick) male comics and squashes them on a tour bus together for a 30 day and 30 venue tour. Vaughn plays the emcee with a small revolving trove of actor friends who perform skits during the series. This film is a behind-the-scenes look at the tour and snippets of the on-stage performances.
There's a hazard in crossing visual mediums; the original is diluted. By taking a live comedy show and constraining it to DVD form, what was probably a hilarious event becomes a bit boxy and two dimensional. Despite the obstacle of shooting on a tour bus (and not making the viewer feel claustrophobic), the endless string of obscenities, or the overall darkness that descends upon this nocturnal tour (partially due to the tour bus lighting and partially due to show venues), I was frequently snickering in spite of myself.
Sometimes my snickers were at the sheer vanity and self involvedness of the comics (Ahmed Ahmed, Sebastian Maniscalco, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst), not-so-young-men who have been struggling against the grain to do what they love for so long that they are both introspective and paranoid, oozing with self confidence and sniveling wallflowers, hilariously funny while also overwrought.
This DVD is a study of contrasts, perhaps primarily due to the close proximity of a "star" (Vaughn) to the non-stars (the comics). Sure Vaughn has the height thing going for him and the unique looks (not treated kindly by a 30-day insomnia and smoking binge), but his true gift is charisma and suaveness. Vaughn throws off one-liners and doesn't wait for the laughs, he just moves forward. The comics play funny with a gaping mouth and backwards glance, always gauging their audience. Their self deprecation after a bad gig is overt, while it is easy to imagine Vaughn shrugging his massive shoulders, saying a few choice words, and proceeding to the bar.
To Vaughn's credit, he schleps from city to city with the guys, endlessly smoking cigarettes and promoting his crew while pacing inside the tour bus with a cell phone clutched to his ear. He does seem "down to earth" and like a "real person," and although he is the headliner by name he is not an overpowering presence on the DVD. He gives the comics their due and their stage time; this tour does not come across as a vanity act.
These comedians aren't hacks; they are hard-working wannabe professionals who take their craft very seriously. Their rising age and unique back stories (which are displayed through interviews, by an unseen interviewer usually, with the comics and their families) are unexpectedly powerful giving credence to the stereotype of the unhappy or damaged funny man.
I assumed before watching this film that the comics were plucked from a long list of eager amateurs—a la an American Idol-esque process. From one of the special features (and the special features are really just extended footage of the film, as the entire film consists of on-stage or behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by Vaughn, just like the special features) I learned that comic Ahmed Ahmed is a one-time actor and long-time friend of Vaughn's and the show's the master link, bringing in friends and colleagues and friends of friends. This revelation was a bit disappointing, as it is hard to imagine a friend of Vince Vaughn's as really a nobody which takes away from the "big break" aspect of the entire tour.
As far as on-stage success goes, the comics far outshine Vaughn's warm-up shticks. Skits featuring Justin Long (The Mac Guy), Jon Favreau, Keir O'Donnell(The Gay Son from Wedding Crashers), and executive producer Peter Billingsley (The Kid from The Christmas Story) come across as elementary and jilted. And this is likely a prime example of why a DVD of a live performance just can't compare to the live performance. It is apparent in the video that the audience is eating the show up (the opening acts through the comics), but it is very hard, as the audience once removed, to feel a connection with the live audience and to feed off of their excitement.
Overall, this film made me interested in seeing a tour that is never going to find its way to me—because it's over. Maybe next year.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One omission from the film and the special features, was a pretty obvious absence of women and booze. I find it very hard to believe that a roving band of comics, led by the piper Vince Vaughn, did not have their share of liaisons with the adoring female fans that greeted them in every city. Certainly, a tour bus is not conducive to romance, but aside from the occasional glimpse of the men schmoozing with the ladies for photos and autographs post-show and a short discussion of the merits of Chardonnay, both women and booze are conspicuously swept under the bus in this film. The film garnered an R waiting for crude on-stage performances, but was generally pretty PG when dealing with real life.
I also wanted to know where the comics are now. Some closing scene text gave a brief announcement of the men's whereabouts, but it would have been interesting to really see where the men are x months after the tour.
If you're a Vince Vaughn fan, or a live comedy fan, or one of those people that buy DVDs of rock concerts you'll never get to attend, this DVD is for you. If you're a movie buff, or a documentary buff this film will disappoint.
Guilty. But you're given blinders and earmuffs for the ride.
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