Movie Review: Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show
Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show is an insightful look at the behind scenes life of a comedian:
Evidenced by Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, a stand-up movie can’t just be a stand-up movie any more. What once entertained simply and directly as a document of a performer’s routine has now fallen prey to audiences’ deeper interests, or at the very least, their more superficial addictions to the “insights” into human nature afforded by reality TV — namely, why comedians are funny or what makes them tick when they are off stage. Thankfully, Vaughn is a more than willing co-conspirator in this sometimes unseemly task, submitting four hand-picked, prodigious talents for our understanding, if not approval. All of which makes Wild West Comedy Show a superior entry in today’s comedy marketplace — if only because it pauses to look behind the laughter and offer us a glimpse of that seldom-seen creative process.
During his voiceover introduction, Vaughn offers some sage wisdom about the secret to becoming a successful performer: know and be honest with yourself. Suffice it to say this is not advice that is well or often heeded by many in Hollywood, but for Vaughn it certainly holds true and has provided him with remarkable opportunities in recent years. But the film isn’t about Vaughn; rather, it chronicles the creative process for his four charges as they attempt to perform 30 shows in as many days. The four comedians are relative unknowns. In alphabetical order, there’s Ahmed Ahmed, a longtime pal of Vaughn’s who is turning his Egyptian heritage into comic revelations about ignorance and prejudice; John Caparulo, a scrappy Clevelander whose material traffics in snarky common sense; Bret Ernst, a New Jersey native who satirizes his Stevie B-loving Italian heritage to hilarious effect; and Sebastian Maniscalo, a Chicago native whose material focuses on the absurdity of dating, shopping and other daily activities.
The documentary is directed by Ari Sandel, who makes a shrewd if largely chronological decision on how to arrange the material with each performer. Early scenes are taken from the tour’s opening-night show in Los Angeles where Justin Long and Jon Favreau make an appearance to help skewer Vaughn and Favreau’s famous origins in Swingers. Vaughn, having honed his own comic persona, is alternately insulting and easily wounded, which of course the crowd devours readily. But his comedic certainty sets the stage for the comedians to find their voices, which they do over the course of the film. Mind you, one assumes that they had a fairly confident sense of their stage persona and their creative approach prior to getting on the tour bus, but the film slowly and effectively reveals the origins of their creativity and humor.
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