Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Particularly Droll Documentary, The Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable Is Neither (Very) Funny Nor (Particularly) Informative!

The Good: One or two anecdotes, One or two jokes, Assemblage of talent
The Bad: Terrible questions, Horrible follow-ups
The Basics: Bill Hader drops the ball when he hosts the Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable.

When I sat down to watch the documentary Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable, I had pretty low expectations. As a documentary on comedy with four of the leading comedians of the last two decades, the documentary had only to be funny enough to be entertaining or informative enough to be enlightening in order to score an “average” rating with me. It did neither.

Ironically, I have no problem admitting I went into Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable biased; the subjects of the documentary (which is little more than Bill Hader interviewing the panel of comedians) are Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, and Jim Carrey and I am not a fan of the works of Jim Carrey. The irony comes from the fact that Jim Carrey gave the most consistently funny and, surprisingly, insightful answers to the questions he was asked, even when the audience did not accept the directions he wanted to go in. For the record, Chris Rock is largely neglected in Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable (though his story of being on the final episode of The Joan Rivers Show is one of the two best stories relayed on the documentary), so it is not his fault he didn’t rise to the usual levels I expect of him.

Jim Carrey, on the other hand, did. It’s funny, though, because when Carrey tried to share a serious thought with the audience about how much he loved the setting – Nantucket – the reaction he got to his honesty and sense of serious awe was so cold that one can almost see him flipping the switch to turn the comment into a joke and try to get people laughing. It’s sad.

Unfortunately, host Bill Hader is not a perceptive or engaged enough interviewer to take advantage of the moment and press for something more. That, sadly, may be the death knell of the Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable.

Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable is a simple forty minute documentary wherein Saturday Night Live comedian and writer Bill Hader sits opposite Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, and Jim Carrey and asks them questions about comedy. He never gets into their process and he skirts their experience and washes fast over the influences on the comedians. Instead, much of the documentary is spent with Stiller, Carrey, and Hader blowing metaphorical kisses at one another.

Indeed, it is always a bad idea in a documentary when the interviewer goes to audience questions. In Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable, that dreaded moment comes before the halfway mark. And more time is eaten up with Ben Stiller’s father, comedian Jerry Stiller, relaying stories from the audience!

The problem with Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable is that it lacks focus. Bill Hader seems to be so in awe of the people he is interviewing – or so desirous of them to entertain him – that he does almost no follow-up, so the stories ramble, the questions get dropped and the subjects react as best they can. Stiller gives one compelling answer on why he left Saturday Night Live before his tenure there actually began, Chris Rock is neglected, and it falls to Jim Carrey for much of the documentary. His jokes in the documentary might be hit or miss, but he sure tries!

Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable is not enough to recommend for fans of the comedians or anyone who is interested in the comedic process. It is not an unpleasant-to-watch work, but it is largely a waste of time.

For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
The Captains
Definitely Maybe (DVD Audio) - Oasis
Parrot Sketch Not Included: Twenty Years Of Monty Python
Michael Moore Hates America


For other film reviews, please check out my very organized Movie Review Index Page for an easy listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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