I came across comedian Owen Benjamin in a very weird way recently. A guy on twitter started following me who is friends with Benjamin. Which is how I found Benjamin’s site and eventually came across his documentary, 60 Minutes, 7 Days.
If you’re a fan of comedy, this is a must see documentary. The premise is that Benjamin tries to write 60 minutes of show-ready material in 7 days – which, if you didn’t know, is pretty darn insane of a goal to hit.
A lot of the documentary is narration. Some of it is kind of weird. But it takes you into the mind of a writer and comedian: who Benjamin is and what it’s like to turn horrible material into something people will laugh at. I love it.
I eventually realized that a friend had recommended Benjamin’s podcast, Why Didn’t They Laugh, to me before. I’ve only listened to one episode of it so far, but I absolutely love it too. It breaks down comedy and quite literally offers answers to why certain jokes don’t work. It’s an analytical approach to comedy, but it’s also a really fun show.
Both the doc and podcast are fantastic if you ask me – Owen Benjamin has a new fan!
Usually, I’m not a huge fan of separating men and women comedians. And that’s why I actually really enjoyed this documentary. Usually, the point of a documentary like this would be to go: “Oh wow, look how much of a path woman have blazed for other women in comedy.” But this documentary isn’t like that.
Yes, it’s all about women comedians and what they’ve accomplished in comedy. But what I enjoyed about it the most is the ending. The documentary gradually moves towards saying something to the effect of: “There is no difference between men and women in comedy anymore.” Which, I think, is really healthy. Sure, there are still some slight differences between men and women in comedy today, as there are always bound to be. But, those differences just aren’t worth bringing up anymore for the sake of moving past them. And that’s pretty much the consensus among every woman who is interviewed in the documentary.
Sarah Silverman, one of the last to share her two cents at the end, pretty much sums it up.
“The last relic of it being hard for women in comedy is the question – is the question: ‘What’s it like being a woman in a man’s world?’ And you go, ‘Oh, that question is the last thing left of it, because women run comedy.'”
The documentary was produced by Makers and you can watch it here. Sorry, I can’t find a way to embed it here because they used some weird format – probably precisely for that reason.
If you found this interesting, you can read more about my thoughts on women in comedy here.
What do you say to a documentary that’s about Bugs Bunny? “Ehhh, what’s up doc?”
Yes I just made that up and yes it’s awful. But it was fun, wasn’t it? Don’t fool yourself: it was.
I found this story in the news this week and the concept really…intrigued me. I’m not so sure how well this doc will turn out.
Don’t let the cool graphics fool you, the idea of following three “regular” people as they try comedy for the first time is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard for a stand up documentary. Why? Well, they don’t know anything about comedy yet. Watch the Fox news video in the link, you’ll see: they talk to one of the “comics” featured in the doc. He is earth-shatteringly boring. No one even wants to hear me do or talk about comedy and I’m decently removed from that hatchling phase.
The only thing you could possibly do to make the doc interesting is also interview other people to talk about what starting comedy is like. You have two options when it comes to that: 1) comics, who will tell you “just do comedy and learn” and 2) professors who have never even tried stand up comedy who have done a lot of research on what’s “funny.” Since I’ve actually done academic humor research I can somewhat fairly say that humor research, although it sounds really interesting, is essentially worthless. Comics are right: you don’t know comedy unless you do it and an hour documentary of interviewed comics saying, “you just gotta go out and do it” and three new comics failing at open mics is not quite prime time material.
As a means of staying more positive (I’m not trying to put anything down), I actually do think it’s great that someone is making a documentary about stand up comedy, no matter what it’s about. There are some pretty decent documentaries on comedy out there, but honestly I’ve never seen one that I thought was “fantastic.” There are some mixed comedy special/documentaries that are pretty cool, but they aren’t quite the same. More filmmakers should be trying. Or comedic filmmakers should try, I think. Maybe the problem is that the comics aren’t really the ones trying to make a documentary.
One great thing that came out of this news story is that it reminded me documentaries on comedy exist and I should post about the better ones that are out there. So here’s to that happening in the future!
I just think the idea of following open mic comics as the premise of a “real” documentary is hilarious. And what kind of name is Morgen Earle? Who knows? It could be really good and I’m a jerk.