Well, it doesn’t quite edge out The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (1967) for most unwieldy title of all time. Nor does it have quite the same je ne sais quoi, but Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights—Hollywood to the Heartland is certainly a mouthful. Unfortunately, the title also promises something “wild” and there’s just nothing wild about it. Perhaps Mildly Amusing West Comedy Show didn’t test so well.
The concept is that Vince Vaughn takes three moderately established stand-up comics—Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparula, Bret Ernst—and one very struggling waiter-comic—Sebastian Maniscalco—on a month-long comedy tour from Hollywood through less big-time venues across the country. Rather than just present the four comics’ routines, the film divides its time between their performances, what happens backstage and on-the-road glimpses—and a little time is spent (well, a good bit really) on Vaughn performing with his buddies, Jon Favreau, Justin Long, Dwight Yoakam, Peter Billingsley and Keir O’Donnell (mostly identified as “the gay guy in Wedding Crashers”). That’s pretty much all there is to it, and it probably doesn’t belong on the big screen. It would certainly feel more at home on HBO.
Even setting aside any hint you might get of Vaughn patting himself on the back, or the sense that he’s bringing comedic culture to the poor rubes who don’t live in L.A. or New York, there are two significant problems with the whole enterprise—and a couple lesser ones. In the lesser department, there’s the case of spending a couple hours in the company of guys who seem incapable of constructing a sentence without some permutation of the “f” word. You don’t have to be prudish to find this a soupçon limited in short order. There’s also the difficulty of buying into the camaraderie and good fellowship that oozes out of everyone at every turn. It all sounds about as sincere as a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, or people who “only invited 600 of their closest friends.” It comes across as staged, down to the last “f bomb” (with the exception of Sebastian Maniscalco, who seems pleasantly genuine).
A larger problem is the whole format, which works best when dealing with the families and backgrounds of the principal four. That’s a clue to the worst problem of all: The movie’s just not all that funny. Vaughn’s troopers—as presented anyway—are never more than mildly amusing. Their material is rarely more than basic Stand-up 101. That’s the kiss of death for a movie about comedy. The sad fact is you can see material as funny or funnier any night of the week on Comedy Central. Rated R for pervasive language and some sex-related humor.