Not a fan of Jerry Seinfeld? Don't worry, neither am I. "Comedian" has as its primary focus, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. This is several years after the end of the "Seinfeld" sitcom and Jerry is getting back on the road as a standup comic trying out new material and working on his new act. As we know, Jerry Seinfeld is a fantastically successful man and if he wanted (or didn't want), he would never have to work another day in his life. So why do standup? Sure, this is his origins and where he came from, but it can be a tough life having to sell himself and his jokes every single performance with no chance of a redo. So, why? Jerry never directly answers this question during the movie except that he loves his work, but my answer is that creative men need to continue to work, to find an outlet for this creativity and this drive to keep performing. But that's just my guess.
Jay Leno says midway through the film, to Jerry, that he couldn't do what Jerry is doing. What Leno is referring to is this film, "Comedian". Jerry is giving away his act. Not on stage, but to us, the viewer. Jerry is letting us see his frustrations, his struggles, and even some of his jokes as a work in progress rather than letting audiences discover the jokes for the first time. That is exactly what "Comedian" is. Jerry Seinfeld a struggling comic. He has a name that will get him through any door and on any stage, but it has been years since he has worked and he is trying to put together new jokes and a new routine. This is untested stuff and he is unsure if it is truly funny or if it will connect with an audience or if it will connect with many audiences. He is trying to find his rhythm.
What adds to this film being so interesting is that other major comics appear in some scenes talking to Jerry. Chris Rock meets Jerry and Jerry tells Chris about his insecurity and Chris replies by telling Jerry about seeing a comic that they hadn't heard of before do a two and a half hour set, no intermission, telling joke after joke after story after joke and everything works. Chris says he felt like a fraud after seeing that comic. And this is Chris Rock! And this is Jerry Seinfeld who is having the same struggles.
The other side of the coin is Orny Adams, a young (early 30's) comic who is trying to make it. He is very much full of himself and feels that he is better than everybody and better than the audience and when a crowd only politely chuckles he blames the audience as a bad audience and not that he may not have been good that day...because Orny is a professional and knows what he is doing. We see Orny begin to work with the guy who helped make Jerry Seinfeld a success. But his attitude just kills. He may be talented, but he needs an attitude check.
This makes me wonder if this is what a Jerry Seinfeld or a Chris Rock or others were like on the way up the comic ladder. That it is only when you reach the level of success and then try to keep being funny with new material that you find you are unsure of your skill. And for this, "Comedian" gives a very insightful look into the backstage life of comics trying to hone their craft, even at a stage in their career where most people think they have it honed.
I wasn't a fan of the tv show "Seinfeld" and I'm not sure I would love Jerry Seinfeld's comedy, and I know I already don't like Orny Adams, but I thought that "Comedian" is an excellent documentary look into their lives as comedians.