It’s been said to dissect comedy is like trying to wrestle it to the floor and break its arm—the point being, of course, that explaining what makes a thing funny will almost certainly render it unfunny. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen with Jordan Brady’s documentary I Am Comic, a film that tries less to explain what funny is than to present the reason that some people are compelled to be comics. More or less built around a comeback attempt by retired comic Ritch Shydner, giving the film a structure, this is an interesting, entertaining and sometimes enlightening look at the world of stand-up comedy.
Perhaps the most notable thing about I Am Comic is the amazing array of stand-up comedians the film manages to assemble. Among others, it boasts Tim Allen (who freely admits to having become “everything I hate” by virtue of success), Tom Arnold, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Louis C.K., Jeff Foxworthy, Janeane Garofalo, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kathy Griffin, Carlos Mencia, Paul Rodriguez, Roseanne Barr, Sarah Silverman and Carrot Top. They even drag in 93-year-old Phyllis Diller—something you don’t see every day. There’s a certain irony in this playing this week, since conspicuous by her absence is Joan Rivers, with the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work opening on Friday. Her non-appearance here actually sheds light on the attitude she expresses in that documentary. (When people think to include Paul Rodriguez and Carrot Top, but overlook you, something is amiss.)