The Comedians of Comedy
dir. Blieden
Opens Fri Sept 23
Guild Theater

For years, I've been insisting that I hate standup comedy. I'm not sure why, exactly—I like a great number of standup comics, and it's not the art form itself I'm opposed to. I think what I hate are standup comedy clubs, places with names like Chucklez! that have cover charges, feature annoying, loudmouthed, dorky comedians, and host open mic nights that make you debate whether to go with a shotgun blast to the head or a good old vein-slicing.

Enter The Comedians of Comedy, a nimble documentary that follows four comics—Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, and Zach Galifianakis. The goal of their "Comedians of Comedy" tour is to bring standup to those who wouldn't step foot inside a lame comedy club; instead, they book small venues that normally cater to the music crowd (for the Portland leg of the tour/film, Dante's hosted). It's in these places that the comedians work through their routines: Oswalt's cynical, smirking tirades; Posehn's self-deprecating, nerdy observations; Bamford's absurdly surreal characterizations; and Galifianakis' bewildering musings, softly muttered as he delicately plays a piano. In the interim, Oswalt and Posehn go comic book shopping, Bamford recounts some particularly brutal standup experiences, and Galifianakis falls off a chair. A lot.

It doesn't sound funny on the page, I know. But then again, standup never does. If the goal of the "Comedians of Comedy" tour was to bring live standup to those who wouldn't otherwise see it, it succeeded. The tour's cinematic counterpart might serve a similar purpose with moviegoers who are used to getting their comedy through sanitized sitcoms or manufactured Jimmy Fallon vehicles. Will the film give me enough courage to venture into a comedy club's open mic night? Probably not. (That's a lot to ask.) But did it make me laugh my ass off for its entire running time? Yep. And am I going to stop erroneously insisting that I hate standup? Damn straight.