In 10 or 15 years, will there be gritty cable dramas in regards to the making of gritty cable dramas? Networks like HBO and Showtime clearly starvation to get behind the scenes of culturally galvanizing artwork, and so they haven’t had a lot luck digging into the world of rock and roll, with HBO’s Vinyl and Showtime’s Roadies not making it to a second season regardless of the formidable, rock-loving filmmakers behind the scenes. For the second, each premium channels appear to have moved on to strive their arms at stand-up comedy. This time HBO takes on the modern scene, with this spring’s already-renewed Crashing, and Showtime exploring the smoky, debauched ’70s with I’m Dying Up Here, a fictionalized adaptation of William Knoedelseder’s e book in regards to the comedy scene in Los Angeles.
It’s a simple child step to make, as a result of as an previous adage goes, all comedians need to be rock stars and all rock stars need to be comedians (tellingly, this adage appears to be repeated extra by comedians than by rock stars). I’m Dying Up Right here facilities on Goldie’s, a fictional comedy membership meant to evoke L.A.’s famed Comedy Retailer, and there’s simply as a lot debauchery, bravado, and drug use as in typical tales about rock and roll within the ’70s and, if something, there’s extra pettiness and jealousy, as comics elbow for house on Goldie’s most important stage, which is usually a springboard to the lately relocated Tonight Present.
The pilot of I’m Dying Up Right here cements the rock/comedy connection by introducing a significant character by way of his slow-mo stroll by a crowded Sundown Strip lodge foyer, swaggering with a six-pack (of beer, not muscular tissues; these are comedians, bear in mind) to the tune of “It Ain’t Simple” (later, a background document retailer advertises Aladdin Sane because the present’s creators are saying, we all know, we all know, this is the Bowie document that was truly simply out in 1973, the yr the present takes place). Within the episode’s first of a number of non-surprising fake-outs, that character seems to be a visitor star: Sebastian Stan, the Winter Soldier himself, taking part in Clay Appuzzo, who’s checking himself right into a lodge to observe himself get known as over to Johnny Carson’s sofa. That is the last word signal comedian hasn’t simply been booked onto Carson’s present however anointed by the person himself – and I’m Dying Up Right here is stuffed with particulars like that, which is to say issues which are true but in addition prone to be acquainted to the comedy nerds this present is meant to be geared toward.
Humorous distinction, isn’t it, the “comedy nerd”? Maybe not as seemingly incongruous as “beer nerd” or “sports activities nerd,” as a result of loads of comedians do have a nerdy-like incapacity to speak with “common” individuals, however nonetheless an odd distinction for individuals who pay shut consideration to the generally aggressive, presumably spirit-crushing, and sometimes outgoing world of stand-up comedy. Clay Appuzzo, for instance, comes throughout far more like a rocker than a comic book, as a result of he’s good-looking, assured, and steps into visitors to kill himself after he watches his Tonight Present section.
It’s not 100 % clear, at first, that he’s killed himself, however by episode’s finish, his ex-girlfriend Cassie (the invaluable Ari Graynor) is fairly satisfied, and we’re, too. The shift away from Clay’s point-of-view is easy sufficient, although, as a result of it is a massive ensemble: There’s Goldie herself, performed by Melissa Leo in a efficiency that generally recollects Carol Kane not in hilarity however in her frenzied, over-the-top supply; a few younger guys from Boston, Ron (Clark Duke) and Eddie (Michael Angarano), who arrive in Los Angeles to get a leg up from Eddie’s previous buddy Clay, solely to seek out out that he’s now not out there; Adam (RJ Syler), a younger black comic struggling to make it; and several other extra comics buzzing across the Goldie’s scene. These are simply the regulars; the pilot additionally has visitor turns from recognizable faces like Dylan Baker (as Carson!), Alfred Molina (showing as a part of a camera-snakes-around-the-club sequence as if making an attempt to crossbreed stray components of Boogie Nights), Robert Forster, and Cathy Moriarty.
That deep bench is a power of the present one episode in, as a result of anytime a storyline begins to really feel a little bit hoary, creaky, or self-consciously “darkish,” there’s a reduce to a different one, often anchored by a likable performer or two. It’s particularly nice to see Graynor again in motion, solid each with and towards sort. She’s made a reputation for herself as a terrific comedian actress, however Cassie’s off-stage stuff is fairly critical as she struggles to get taken severely (whereas additionally getting laughs) in a male-dominated area and tries to discover a stronger voice.
However it’s a disgrace that this course of is illustrated by a scene the place Cassie drops the exaggerated Texan accent she’s been utilizing in her considerably generic Southern-life bits and, whereas on stage, comes up with basically a complete new routine within the second that simply occurs to spring from her grief over Clay and talk precisely who she is, all within the span of about 5 minutes. I’m certain this has occurred to some comedians earlier than, however I’m Dying Up Right here doesn’t put a lot thought into the mechanics of how this truly occurs in a comic book’s head. After taking some powerful recommendation from Goldie to coronary heart, Cassie pauses dramatically, launches right into a critical monologue, and finds her new jokes. I’m additionally apprehensive that the present considers Clay such a sage truthteller that he seems in Cassie’s visions to advise her on these issues.
Possibly that enterprise is out of the best way post-pilot; we’ll see. For now, that’s the fundamental story arc of this primary episode: Cassie loses an ex however finds her voice. Eddie and Ron discover a place to remain in Los Angeles, but it surely’s actually inside a closet. Goldie blusters round. Adam is subjected to a deeply creepy facet gig by a pastor. Essentially the most attention-grabbing dilemma within the episode has little to do with comedy, as a substitute addressing whether or not Cassie ought to share her sturdy hunch (semi-confirmed by a postcard left for her) that Clay’s loss of life was not unintentional along with his dad and mom and/or the press. The second the place she basically trades stage time for Goldie’s enter on this choice has a bracing chilliness the remainder of the pilot doesn’t match. Nonetheless, there’s sufficient hustle and bustle to this primary hour of I’m Dying Up Right here to lend this starry, briskly paced present some promise.
- Hello, I’m Jesse, and I’ll be taking you thru the primary season of I’m Dying Up Right here! My standard factor is writing about films however I watch some TV, too, and I discover comedy fascinating as a result of it appears so mysterious to me in plenty of methods. It’s not one thing I might ever do, which is one other manner I affiliate it with performing music.
- Pilot director Jonathan Levine has made some comedies I like (Snatched; The Night Before). Right here, he appears to be going for medium-level status TV, the place the director doles out some heavy cinematic touches (that lengthy membership monitoring shot; a drug-fueled scene with Leo with haloed backlighting and canted angles) sometimes, however not persistently. I travel on whether or not we must always anticipate (good) movie-level shot composition, modifying, and many others., from a TV present that’s actually extra about story and characters.
- To my layperson/critic eyes and ears, it looks like making convincing “faux” stand-up materials should be simpler than faking a rock band. But solely a few of Dying’s snatches of stand-up actually join, and it’s onerous to inform if that’s an intentional impact, a failure of the writers to seek the advice of with comics keen to offer them some A-level materials, or someplace in between.
- Additionally, among the on-screen comedians (particularly Clark Duke) sound vaguely modern of their supply, which makes the references to Roe v. Wade and pet rocks of their bits appear all of the extra gratuitous, doing the heavy lifting of rooting the present in its interval.
- We’ll see if I’m Dying Up Right here can measure as much as the gold normal of exhibits in regards to the artwork of comedy: Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.
- Simply kidding; that present was the worst! You might most likely write some fairly good comedy sketches by asking Aaron Sorkin for concepts after which by some means writing the alternative of no matter he thinks a comedy sketch ought to be like.
- Really Humorous Riff Watch: Between the precise routines and the playful but aggressive riffing so many professional comics interact in offstage, there have been plenty of makes an attempt at jokes within the pilot. My favourite, although, was this low-key alternate: “That’s 20 minutes of my life I’ll by no means get again.” “However would you really need 20 minutes of your life again?”