You may not actually die laughing from watching the new talking head documentary “Dying Laughing” but you will get a closer look into the psyche of the people who stand on stages to make us laugh.
The premise is simple. Directors Paul Toogood and Lloyd Stanton have assembled a who’s who of comedians—Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Billy Connelly and Garry Shandling to name just a fraction of the faces represented here—to discuss what it is like to be a comic. One after the other, in front of a white screen, they tell the kind of stories about being on the road, about bombing and how to deal with hecklers that you imagine comics only share with one another in seedy hotel rooms and backstage at gigs.
Occasionally revealing—being a comedian is “too painful and difficult if it isn’t a calling,” says Shandling while Seinfeld clarifies that it isn’t audience approval he wants but audience sublimation—occasionally funny, it is more often than not occasionally repetitive. In story after story the details change—Connelly was once punched in the face in the middle of a set!—but the gist remains the same. “You’ve got to die to get good.” “The more pain you go through the better you’ll be.” Sometimes the language is quite colourful—“Bombing feels like being slapped by your dad at a BBQ.”—but it does go on longer than it should.
Judging by the off camera laughter during the interview segments this was a fun film to make. Too bad it isn’t quite as much fun to watch. A judicious editor, perhaps one a little less in love with the material probably could have cut this down to the bone, mining the interviews for new insight.