ALONE UP THERE is a documentary about stand-up comedy that features interviews with the likes of Marc Maron, Moshe Kasher, Eddie Pepitone, and Brody Stevens.
Have you heard of those people?
If yes, then: You already know more about stand-up comedy than you could possibly learn from this surface-level, no-budget documentary.
If no, then: Please do not begin your comedy education with this surface-level, no-budget documentary.
Written, produced, and directed by pretty Canadian Sean Patrick Shaul, Alone Up There's raison d'être seems to be that it gave Shaul an excuse to sit down with some of his favorite comedians.
After a cursory intro to the history of stand-up comedy, Shaul poses a series of questions to Mike MacDonald, Iliza Shlesinger, Darryl Lenox, and the handful of other comedians who were willing to take his calls. He asks them for insights into such questions as what type of person goes into comedy, what sets stand-up apart from other art forms, how they deal with hecklers, and plenty more—these are the pieces of being a comic. Cue footage of puzzle pieces being fitted together. LIKE A COMIC. Because comics are puzzles. Made of pieces.
Shaul occasionally appears onscreen during these interviews, nodding earnestly as his subjects explain their life's work. Why he bothers to introduce himself into the film at all is a mystery until the final half hour, when he poses the question:
"What's the best way to understand stand-up comedy?"
"Doing it yourself," one comedian replies.
And so our friendly Canadian narrator decides that he should write and perform a comedy set.
The comedians' reactions to this idea are handily the most entertaining part of the film. "It's probably gonna be bad," Brody Stevens says bluntly. "You're gonna be amazed by how your bowels react," says another comic. But this short segment misses a great chance to shed a little light on the practice and preparation that go into writing a set. Worse, when Shaul inevitably bombs onstage, the footage is broken up with clips of comedians explaining how bad it feels to tank. It's a copout, and it's too bad for the film that its bravest, most engaging—albeit also excruciatingly embarrassing—moments were softened in the editing room.