‘Do you have to be miserable to be funny?’ That’s the big question director Kevin Pollak asks at the end of his talking-head doc. The answer? ‘Yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’ or ‘who knows?’ depending on who’s asked. Despite its big questions, ‘Misery Loves Comedy’ fails to draw many conclusions. Pollak speaks to a huge list of comedians and actors to get their thoughts on funny, but they barely scratch the surface. Really, this is an excuse for Pollak to extract stories from his comedy pals.
It’s an impressive contacts list: Judd Apatow, Steve Coogan, Jimmy Fallon, Larry David, Amy Schumer – even Tom Hanks – all feature, explaining why they enjoy being the centre of attention. Unsurprisingly, they’ve all bombed on stage, but they almost all describe comedy as an addiction: when it goes well it’s a massive high (Hanks compares it to ‘crack cocaine’, but doesn’t say whether he’s basing that on first-hand experience).
For stand-up fans, these celebrity anecdotes are interesting enough, but ‘Misery Loves Comedy’ is just too unfocused. It doesn’t delve deeply or darkly enough to be truly revealing, nor is it funny enough to be a straightforward laugh fest.