Stand-up concert films
Liam McEneaney and Kevin Hart keep the comedy-film experience alive.
Wed Sep 21 2011
Photograph: Mindy Tucker
When The Original Kings of Comedy premiered in 2000, and eventually grossed $38.2 million, stand-up fans celebrated the return of the concert film. The genre, once dominated by Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, has suffered since the rise of cable and home video. But this month, two very different films are doing their part to keep stand-up on the big screen.
Kevin Hart may be best known to the general public for his roles in the Scary Movie franchise, but as a stand-up, he's earned his career one fan at a time—and now has 2 million Twitter followers. During its opening weekend earlier this month, his film Laugh at My Pain made $1.9 million in 97 theaters, with very little marketing. It has since opened in 58 more, and will also be released in parts of Africa. The film, which he recorded at Nokia Theatre in New York last year, is typical of a Hart show in that it's energetic and autobiographical. But Hart delves deeper this time, mining laughs from more emotional or traumatizing elements of life, such as his father's drug habit and his mother's funeral. It's an hour tour through his past, produced for $750,000.
On the other end of the concert-film spectrum is Tell Your Friends!, a variety show--documentary about NYC's basement/alt-comedy scene, which was made for $155,000. In the film, Liam McEneaney, who's run a weekly show by the same name on the Lower East Side for six years, hosts five acts, ranging from stand-ups who also have a club presence, like Christian Finnegan, to the genre-breaking Reggie Watts, who sings, raps and loops his own beat-boxing. Having screened at festivals—including SXSW, Just for Laughs and the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival—Tell Your Friends! makes its New York debut at the Paley Center Thursday 22. A panel discussion will follow, featuring cast members Finnegan, Leo Allen, Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, along with director-comedian Victor Varnado (The Awkward Comedy Show). It's titled "How Alt Comedy Goes Mainstream." Presumably, making a concert film is one of the ways.
SketchFest NY Presents: The NYC Premiere of: Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film! happens Thu 22. Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain is playing at AMC theaters in New York; visit amctheatres.com for times and locations.