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Comedian (2002) – DVD Review

Jerry Seinfeld Comedian DVD cover art


Directed by Christian Charles
Starring Jerry Seinfeld


  • Running audio commentary by director Charles and producer Gary Streiner
  • Running audio commentary by Seinfeld and Colin Quinn
  • Seinfeld’s and Orny Adams’ complete appearances on Late Night with David Letterman
  • Deleted scenes with commentary
  • Jiminy Glick’s interviews with Seinfeld and Orny Adams
  • “Where is Orny Now?” short film
  • Complete advertising campaign
  • Notes from Seinfeld, Colin Quinn and Orny Adams on developing material

Released by: Miramax.
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it.

[ad#longpost]In the smoky bars and comedy clubs of Manhattan, two comics are honing their act. One is Jerry Seinfeld. Yes, that Seinfeld (cue theme song). He’s testing out jokes on stage so he can get an hour’s worth of all new material. Even with his popularity, it’s not an easy road to get a laugh. He still has to develop jokes, deal with uncooperative audiences, and his own insecurities and ego.

Another traveler on this road is Orny Adams. You’re going “who?” but Orny is on the cusp of breaking into the big time. He has just signed with a high-powered agent, getting good press and will be appearing on Late Night with David Letterman. Which is also where Seinfeld will be trying out his new material in front of David’s national television audience. While these two men are in different places in their careers, both experience the highs and lows in being a Comedian.

First off, this is not a comedy film. There are plenty of bits with comics doing their routines, but that isn’t the main focus of the film. It’s about being a stand-up comic. The film is shot with an intimate feel outside of clubs, at restaurant tables, and inside dressing rooms. While they avoid the needy, neurotic stereotype, we don’t learn anything that we didn’t already know: comics get nervous before going on, they will work their material down to the last syllable, and they have an intense love/hate relationship with the audience. These obvious conclusions are still presented well, even though we knew they were coming. The filmmakers let Seinfeld and Adams tell their experiences in their own words without outside interpretation.

Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld from Comedian

Both comics represent a different aspect of a comic. Seinfeld is the purist, already famous and rich, he has the luxury of building a whole new act without worrying about the rent or concerned about landing a developing deal. Adams is the pragmatist, concentrating on the goal, not the journey. He obsesses over his act, watching videotapes of his past performances looking for flaws. It is interesting that while Seinfeld has conversations with the like of Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Robert Klein, even Bill Cosby, we never see Orny talking with any other fellow comics. This reflects the camaraderie and competitiveness comics feel for each other.

This disc has two commentary tracks. The first is by the filmmakers Charles and Streiner. They talk about the technical aspects of the filming, like how using digital recorders allowed them more flexibility in getting up close to the action without worrying about the bulk of regular cameras. Primarily, this production relied on luck, everything from kindly employees who didn’t kick them out of areas they weren’t allowed to shoot in to serendipitous shots where the lighting and positioning of people just happened to be perfect. We also learn that Orny Adams was a late find in production and was picked for being so outspoken about other comics and the audience.

The second commentary is with Seinfeld and Colin Quinn. This is more entertaining than educational, but it’s fun to hear them crack on themselves and on Adams. They also offer more insight into being a comic by dispensing sage wisdom, such as: never lead your act with untested material or: when you’re bored with your act, it’s perfect.

There are plenty of other extras as well. There are some deleted scenes with commentary from the filmmaker to give them context and why they had to be removed. A nice feature is you get to see both comics’ performances on Late Night with David Letterman. Since this appearance is a big thing for both, it’s good that they included the result. Also, they include the advertising campaign, which is usually boring but this shows some imagination in their commercials…and they even have action figures!

We are also given a quick peek at how Orny is doing. Now for some reason we have so-called interviews by Jiminy Glick from the Comedy Central show. Now if you find him funny, good for you. We also see some illegible notes from Seinfeld, Adams, and Quinn to supposedly illustrate how jokes are made.

Still, the film’s good enough for a rental and the features help bolster it. It’s not strong enough to own unless, I guess, you’re a Seinfeld completist. But if you just want a glimpse as to what’s behind the laughter, go rent Comedian.