Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show (2008) dir. Ari Sandel


Ari Sandel and Vince Vaughn’s stand-up comic road movie arrives on DVD today. Vince Vaughn’s celebrity provides the entry point into the lives and careers of four aspiring stand up comics plucked from the Comedy Store, thrown in a van for a thirty day tour  across the American heartland. It’s a fun ride, providing more than enough gut busting laughs.

In his opening voiceover (a voicemail actually) he describes his intent to find four of the most promising comics from the legendary Comedy Store (the origins of Richard Pryor and Robin Williams) and bring them on a vaudeville-style road trip in the tradition of the great Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West show.

There’s Bret Ernst – a New Yorker – with a self-professed “Guido”-slant to his routine. Ahmed Ahmed is an LA-based comic who, because of his Egyptian heritage takes on the self-depreciating Arab/Terrorist jokes. Sebastian Maniscalca presents another refined uber-male approach like Ernst and John Caparulo does the country-bumpkin routine. Some of Vaughn’s Hollywood pals like Jon Favreau, Justin Long and Dwight Yoakam add some skits and music throughout the shows to round out the Vaudevillian flavour.

Vince puts on his motor mouth schtick of course, but in the opening of the show Jon Favreau gets a clever potshot in about Vince's proclivity to talk. For the most part though Vaughn gives the stage to the performers. Their stand up routines are intercut with each other throughout the film, offering 2-3mins gags which run one after another. Each performer is unique and rarely competes with each other.

As the road trip moves along we get to know the comics as people, outside of their stage personas. But what’s surprising is that their acts reflect their real life situations. John Caparulo who makes no bones about his difficulties picking up women in real life, uses this to fuel his profane-laden routine. Bret Ernst provides some thoughtful poignant reflections on his homosexual brother who died of Aids in 2001. He honours his memory by creating a hilarious but respectable series of jokes about his brother. Same goes with Ahmed’s insecurities of his own heritage and Maniscalca’s struggles with his career.

Stand up comedy is arguably the toughest gig in show business. Maniscala even confesses that most comedians are manic depressives, and go through severe bouts of depression frequently. And so watching the four lads, who become like family over the trip, succeed and get applause and standing ovations, it becomes a satisfying feeling for the audience.

Conflict is kept to the bare minimum, which is ok, because arguments and backstabbing would take valuable time away from the laughs, which in the end trump those “Aristocrats” jokes and practically everything in Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedian”. Enjoy.

"Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show" is available on DVD from Alliance Films in Canada and New Line Home Entertainment in the U.S.

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