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article imageReview: Hot Docs’ 'Show me the Funny' showcases stand-up & sketch comedy Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 22, 2015 in Entertainment
Documentaries have a reputation of being serious, but Hot Docs’ “Show me the Funny” program demonstrates they can have a humorous side too.
Almost everyone loves to laugh. Studies even show there are health benefits to a regular chuckle. There are entire television networks dedicated to broadcasting humorous content. It’s a mystery why some people are professional-grade funny and others are less so; it’s often a practiced craft, but for some it just comes naturally. The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival serves audience’s appetites for comedy with the program, “Show me the Funny.” Amongst this year’s selections is a film about three men who persevere in a struggling industry and another is a behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s most famous comedy troupes.
A scene from  3 Still Standing
A scene from '3 Still Standing'
Hot Docs
In 3 Still Standing, a trio of career comedians are videoed as they reflect on their time on stage and contemplate the future. Casual spectators of stand-up comedy will likely recognize the documentary’s subjects, even if they don’t recognize their names: Johnny Steele, Will Durst and Larry "Bubbles" Brown. Steele’s style is observational and social commentary; Durst’s routine similarly consists of political observations; and Brown usually relies on self-deprecating humour to entertain audiences. They all got started in the ‘80s in San Francisco, which was a haven for young comedians looking to make their mark. However, as Steele discovered the hard way when he did a show in Nevada, not all routines are transferable.
In addition to speaking to the three comedians at the centre of the documentary, filmmakers also interview Robin Williams, Rob Schneider and Dana Carvey. In addition to adding recognizable celebrity to the film, they provide interesting observations about the stand-up scene in San Francisco, reaffirming the experiences of the other three men in addition to acknowledging and praising their respective talents. The phrase, “Comics get better as they get older,” is expressed at one point and seems conceivable. Deciding it’s time to take the next step in their careers, Steele organizes a pop-up comedy performance, Durst prepares for a 90-minute one-man show and Brown goes on the road with Carvey.
A scene from  Monty Python: The Meaning of Live
A scene from 'Monty Python: The Meaning of Live'
Hot Docs
In 2013, the famed comedy troupe, Monty Python, announced they would be performing live for the first time in 34 years. The first show sold out in 43.5 seconds, all 10 performances were a phenomenal success and fans unable to catch the show in-person could watch in one of 1,800 cinemas around the world. Monty Python: The Meaning of Live goes behind-the-scenes of this momentous production, capturing everything from the press conferences, rehearsals, interviews, meet-and-greets and backstage remarks. In between these moments of preparing for the reunion, filmmakers intercut footage from the early days of the group’s television series and live tours through the ‘70s (though it doesn’t touch on the films). These sections display the original versions of many of the sketches that would be revived for the O2 Arena.
The candidness of the one-on-one interviews is sometimes surprising. They talk about each other, revealing their admiration for their collaborators as well as feelings of incompatibility with certain members of the cast. The passing of Graham Chapman is commemorated in the opening sequence of the reunion, but time is also taken within the documentary to remember his contributions, personality and amusing anecdotes. Literally going behind the curtain, everyone who saw the show last year can enjoy behind-the-scenes jokes and truly appreciate the work and play that went into producing “Monty Python Live (Mostly).”
Ticket and screening information are available on the Hot Docs website.
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