Suffice to say, "The Comedy" is not a comedy (even though it does contain laughs) nor is it necessarily about comedians. Spearheaded by a shockingly inspired performance from Tim Heidecker, what Rick Alverson's quietly brilliant film is, is in fact about pointlessness, indifference and mocking sincerity. Sounds riveting right? Well, it is
in a very experimental way. "The Comedy" is deep and poignant and fascinatingly layered with subtle jabs at society, as well as those who have so much in life, that they have become bored with everyday existence.
Opening with a sequence involving male nudity that is so awkward it may cause some viewers to say to themselves "what did I get myself into?", "The Comedy" follows a man named Swanson (Heidecker) who is seemingly unfazed by his father's impending death. Instead of a real job, he spends his days hanging out with his buddies, engrossed in inane verbal and physical (and sometimes sociopathic) games of one-upmanship. From impersonating store clerks and gardeners, to making the most inappropriate jokes during the most depressing and even life threatening moments, to degrading others in public in order to fulfill some kind of personal enjoyment, as this film progresses the activities of each of these men (including Swanson) become progressively offensive in order to maintain a sort of continuous high. And while this could be the plot to any crude Danny McBride piece of trash, it is Alverson's ultra serious tone, along with the fact that he throws these would be offensive but clownish comedic characters into a real world where people die, have disorders and are struggling to feed their families, which allows "The Comedy" to rise above the "crudeness for the sake of being crude" films of today.
As much as I enjoyed "The Comedy", this is one movie that will assuredly come under heavy scrutiny from a majority (that's right, I said majority) of movie going audiences, because, for one, while there is a subtle story arc here, this film is not pushed along by heavy conflict. And secondly, many unfamiliar with Heidecker's form of comedy will undoubtedly be turned off by the amount of absurdist drama which is played out by a group, whom on the surface seem too spoiled and flippant to care about. In short, even those who loved the terribly long "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" or are fans of their show and have been eagerly awaiting more of the same skit driven comedy, may find "The Comedy" a bit too tonally heavy or obscure to take (and that is truly saying something).
Side Note: Some have said that the Tim Hiedecker's style of comedy is a form of avant-garde comedy or apart of the anti-comedy movement. Meaning, that much of his shtick consists of making his audiences (television or otherwise) highly uncomfortable, to the point where they either laugh at his awkwardness or dismiss his actions as strange. And while Hiedecker's awkward style of comedy is featured prominently here, his performance is anything but comedic. In fact, he gives a quite emotionally dramatic performance in a movie that, if it were a straight forward comedy, would have seen Zach Galifianakis in the starring role. Thankfully, this is not the case because Hiedecker's performance is absolutely magnificent (and dare I say award worthy?) in this role that was obviously tailored specifically for him.
Final Thought: I will reiterate, and I can't say this enough, how "The Comedy" is not for everybody; especially if you are expecting a comedy. To some audiences this is all going to seem as an exercise in pathetic nature and nonsensical mannerisms, but rest assured that there is something happening here on a very highly conceptual level that is not only meant to make viewers uncomfortable, and cringe and laugh at the most inappropriate things, as well as think these characters are pathetic while at the same time feel sorry for them, but is also a subtly laced work of a very skilled writer, whose entire point seems to be an analysis/criticism of the reaction of "normal people" to those who wish to push the limits of comedy. Not since Lars von Trier's "The Idiots" have I witnessed a movie that was this skillfully successful in demonstrating the complex struggles of a generation built on a doctrine of nihilistic irreverence. In short, if you chose to see "The Comedy", you will either absolutely love it or absolutely hate it.
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland