Dying Laughing Review
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Whether they’re performing in tiny comedy clubs and hotel bars or huge arenas and televised specials, stand-up comics dedicate their lives to making people laugh. But there’s more to the job than just being funny—and the documentary Dying Laughing explores both the funny and not-so-funny aspects of the life of a comic.

Dying Laughing goes behind the scenes in the world of stand-up comedy. Through interviews with a multitude of comics—some widely known, some less known—it journeys through the moments that every comic understands. They laugh about their terrifying (and often terrible) first performances and explain what it took to develop their style. They discuss the loneliness of life on the road. They relate stories about dealing with hecklers and being booed off the stage. But they also talk about the joys of the job—about the unparalleled feeling they get when they manage to force the laughter out of a crowd of strangers.

The life of a stand-up comic isn’t all laughter and happiness—so despite the fact that it’s made entirely of interviews with a bunch of people who are funny for a living, this documentary isn’t necessarily a comedy. Instead, it rises and falls as it explores the different aspects of their career. Sometimes—as they talk about their horrifying first performances or their run-ins with hecklers—it’s laugh-out-loud funny. At other times, though—especially when they talk about the loneliness of their job or those devastating moments of failure—it’s surprisingly heartbreaking. And though the film is organized well, the changes in tone and emotional highs and lows can be somewhat jarring—but those low moments are just as important to the story as the highs.

The format, meanwhile, is pretty basic. The film focuses on the interviews, with the subjects shown in black and white. That’s a whole lot of talking heads—but, fortunately, they’re generally pretty entertaining talking heads. At times, there’s some b-roll footage of comedy clubs or solitary roads through middle America thrown in to add some visual interest. Admittedly, the visual aspects of the film aren’t especially interesting—and perhaps it could have been broken up with some Seinfeld-esque stand-up clips.

In the end, though, Dying Laughing offers a different perspective on the world of stand-up comedy, exploring the parts of the job that you probably don’t think about when you’re enjoying a few drinks and some laughs with friends at your local comedy club. It’s sure to give you a new appreciation for stand-up comics—and it’ll definitely make you think twice before booing a comic off the stage.

Listen to the review on Reel Discovery:

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