The old adage tells us 'Dying is easy, comedy is hard' and Kevin Pollak's excellent documentary about stand-up makes it absolutely clear why that’s still very much the case.
Over the course of the film, a multitude of mostly US and British stand-ups explain what it's like to be funny, why stand-up is a drug, the universal experience of bombing in front of an audience and many other topics, neatly divided into bite-sized chapters, all culminating in the final question: do you have to be miserable to be a comedian?
It's talking heads with the occasional inserted photograph and no actual clips of any stand-up performances, but despite all the straight-to-camera chat, Misery Loves Comedy is a very, very funny film, as well as giving us a fascinating insight into the way comedians tick - not just stand-ups but writers as well.
Among the fifty or more familiar faces are Larry David, Richard Lewis, Amy Schumer, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Coogan, Stephen Merchant (but no Ricky Gervais) and Christopher Guest (Merchant tells a particularly funny anecdote about his first meeting with Steve Coogan and Guest demonstrates how he can throw his voice in quite an alarming manner) while James L. Brooks, Judd Apatow, Jason Reitman and Kevin Smith contribute thoughts about being funny behind the camera (and how comedy could even save a life.) It was also good to hear Kelly Carlin-McCall's warm memories of her father (the legendary George Carlin, just in case you thought we meant The Equalizer’s not-so-funny Robert McCall) and Freddie Prinze Jr.'s humorous but painfully honest views of his father, who was a comedy genius but by all accounts rather a failure as a husband and parent.
Tom Hanks makes an appearance, although the photos accompanying his slot are all lifted from his not-very-good movie-about-stand-up Punchline which was written by The Omen's David Seltzer, who proved in that one fell swoop that horror writers can't write funny (a complete switch on William Peter Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist several years after writing a Pink Panther movie, thereby proving that comedy writers can write creepy).
William H. Macy contributes a brief appearance too and makes it completely understood that stand-up comedy will never be his thing.
The movie ends in a dedication to Robin Williams, whose absence will no doubt hang like a shadow over every comedy documentary from now until forever. DVD extras are limited to a trailer and a small handful of deleted/extended conversations.
All we can say is that when a documentary makes us want to climb onstage and give stand-up a go for ourselves, is there higher praise?
If you enjoy comedy - not just stand-up, but the mechanics of creating comedy and all its emotional highs and lows - make sure you don't miss this.
Special Features: Deleted and extended scenes / Trailer
MISERY LOVES COMPANY / CERT: EXEMPT / DIRECTOR: KEVIN POLLAK / SCREENPLAY: KEVIN POLLAK, JOHN VORHAUS / STARRING: LARRY DAVID, JANEANE GAROFALO, RICHARD LEWIS, STEVE COOGAN, STEPHEN MERCHANT, TOM HANKS, AMY SCHUMER, SAM ROCKWELL, JEMAINE CLEMENT, JIMMY FALLON, KEVIN SMITH, BOBBY CANNAVALE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW