How can Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood’s documentary meditation on stand-up comedians, which features a murderer’s row of talent — Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Gary Shandling, Jerry Lewis, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart, et. al. — be almost entirely unfunny, and more than a little dull? It starts with the self-regard at the outset, in which stand-ups are termed “the last philosophers,” doing something that’s “beyond art – it’s a magic trick.” (Thank heaven for Sarah Silverman’s frank admission of her “fucked-up need to please strangers.”) But the real, systemic problem is the lack of concrete examples. Subject after subject — joke-crafting, set-building, room-running, dying on stage, living on the road, etc. — gets treated with bloodless abstraction by people who tell funny, engaging stories about their experiences for a living, often in front of a camera. At least we get a few particulars about handling hecklers (including a solid, entertaining anecdote from Sam Tripoli), though even there, a little footage would have been nice. No, more than nice — lively. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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