Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Detroit International Comedy Festival

Who knew? Detroit’s very own comedy fest is alive and well.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 12:00 AM

For those who haven’t heard, Detroit sports a real and worthy live comedy festival, now heading into its third year. A showcase for dozens of rising local and national acts, the weeklong laughathon splits into theme nights, such as "Best of the East Coast," and culminates in a final show that draws the best performers from the event. This doc — shot during last spring’s festival — serves as an extended advertisement for the 2010 event, and in that regard it excels.

Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle hosts the fest, and the jovial Ridley introduces the film, treating viewers to a brief behind-the-scenes peek, detailing the impressive talent that has passed through the lived-in greenroom. House manager Kevin Wheeler offers a drill sergeant-like pep talk to a lineup of comics, moments before show time. What you won’t see is the backbiting, gossip, drama, hazing and hilariously inappropriate off-the-cuff jokes that comics trade with each other, but the loose, backstage banter here provides some of the movie’s best moments.

And trust me I should know, I was there. (Full disclosure: Eagle-eyed viewers will catch a few shots of Corey Hall hanging in the lobby.)

Director Jim Dudek has long been a cheerleader for both the comedy scene and the area film community. In the mid-’00s, Dudek had a brief, rather memorable run programming the Roseville Theatre, a fan’s paradise where Dudek screened weirdo foreign horror, cult action, such lost treasures as Death Bed: The Bed that Eats and tons of fun, local stuff. It’s a shame that more worthy local acts don’t get better exposure.

In this film, we get tantalizing glimpses of such Detroit mainstays as Mike Bonner, Ben Konstantin and Mike Costa, but see little of them on stage. Dudek instead focuses on longer takes from a handful of national acts, and while there’s no way to give everybody screen time, it’d be nice to spread the love. There’s also a problem with the editing, which cuts between too-similar angles. And the crowd reaction shots are ridiculously overlit, giving an impression of a bingo parlor, not a rocking comedy club.

These quibbles aside, the film does provide laughs. While there’s no two-drink minimum at the movie theater, the film’s shortcomings only help serve its ultimate, backdoor agenda, enticing you to skip the multiplex in favor of a live comedy venue. Remember to tip your server and cut the heckling.

Opens Friday, Jan. 8, exclusively at Emagine theaters; see


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