Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 6
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

“THE NEXT comedian IS…”: Vince Vaughn introduces another act in his touring variety show. He has made a film about the whirlwind tour that goes behind the staged acts and describes how and where many standup comedians get the material for their acts.

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: Introspective Comics Crisscross Country in Concert Film

Kam Williams

In the Summer of 2005, Vince Vaughn came up with the novel idea of putting together a group of entertainers to create a variety show that would mix together standup comedy, improvised material, and musical routines. The troupe would barnstorm across the country in a bus, performing in 30 cities in 30 days as they made their way from Hollywood into America’s heartland and back.

With the help of his best friend, child-star-turned-producer Peter Billingsley (who you may remember as Ralphie in A Christmas Story), Vince found four aspiring comics to serve as his headliners: Bret Ernst, John “Cap” Caparulo, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Ahmed Ahmed. And then he invited a few of his showbiz pals to participate, including Jon Favreau, Justin Long, Dwight Yoakam, and Keir O’Donnell. They called themselves the Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, and made a movie of the tour, a surprisingly cerebral film which divides its time evenly between highlights of onstage acts and sobering moments of introspection captured during offstage.

For instance, Sebastian, who was waiting tables when discovered, tears up when he expresses his gratitude to Vince for giving him this big break.

Bret is almost as emotional when he reflects upon his gay elder brother who died of AIDS, while Ahmed Ahmed talks earnestly about how 9/11 has forced him to build his act around racial profiling and his Arab-American heritage.

Cap wrestles with being a malcontent whose foul mouth and bad attitude prevents him from having a girlfriend. Yet, when he says, “It’s really cool to have a job that’s cathartic,” it’s clear that he enjoys exploring his existential angst in front of an audience.

It’s these self-searching asides which make the Wild West Comedy Show worthwhile. As a result of these and other scenes, the movie reveals standup comedy to be an exercise far deeper than just going for a joke. I almost forgot to mention that the film is also funny, with some routines that contain hilarious observational humor. Just remember, these guys generate laughs by relating their life experiences in a way which resonates with their audience as being authentic.

Emcee Vince Vaughn comes off the best as an altruistic mentor willing to offer a helping hand to up-and-coming comics because he has never forgotten what it was like to be a struggling actor. He even altered their tight schedule in order to visit with the victims of Katrina and to do a benefit, when the hurricane hit during the middle of the tour.

Comedy with a social conscious. How refreshing!

Excellent (4 stars). Rated R for sexual humor and profanity. Running time: 115 minutes. Studio: Picturehouse.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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