Punching the Clown: Comedy is Often Misunderstood (2009)

Posted: July 27, 2012 in Comedy

With dreams of finally hitting it big, Henry travels out to LA and crashes with his brother. His career had hit bottom after a failed performance in front of a Christian fundraising group. His brother gets him connected with an agent, who starts to set him up with opportunities to perform. Seeing his best success coming from his honored time slot at a local club’s open mic night, he decides to take whatever comes his way. Finally getting some positive exposure, Henry is invited to a talent agency and is offered to opportunity to sign a contract. When a simple question gets misinterpreted, Henry is unaware that a stirring of negative press is building to destroy his dream for success. Meanwhile, he begins to develop an interest in the bartender at the club but just cannot seem to figure out how to connect with her.

Starring: Henry Phillips (himself), Ellen Ratner (Ellen Pinsky), Matthew Walker (Matt), Audrey Siegel (Becca), Guilford Adams (Fabian), Evan Arnold (Don Chase), Mark Cohen (Stupid Joe), Mik Scriba (Joel), Eddie Pepitone (Eddie), Derek Waters (Dave the Intern), Wade Kelley (Captain Chaotic), Paul Willson (Bill), Cissy Conner (Kitty), Michelle Anne Johnson (Jane Crown Jones)

With Henry Phillips essentially playing himself, his projects his characters as one that is relatively laid back but highly misunderstood. Struggling to explain what he does to most people, there is an honesty in the way he tells his story. Ellen has all of the energy of a small-time representative and is probably the most animated character of the film.

  

Gregori Viens took the story co-written with Henry Phillips and tried to do it justice through bringing an extra element of comedy to the film. Henry’s troubles were basically inevitable but could not have been predicted to occur the way they did. Highlighted through the program hosted by Captain Chaotic, Henry told the story of his initial fall and attempt to rise through his LA adventure. What he could have never predicted would be the fact that he would be struck from success by an innocent, indirect comment. When he asked for where the bagels came from, Fabian pesters his assistant and the intern to find out what bakery they came from, which sends the intern into a tirade. Word slowly gets out in the background about his “obsessive” (and mistakenly anti-Semetic) attitude and comments. He does not discover this until the club is blocked by protestors, essentially canceling his LA career.

  

The element that seems to garner the most comedic value (other than the trail of lies about his personality) is actually how misunderstood his comedy style is. He consistently remarks that his comedy comes from a lyrical, sarcastic and folk-like place, commonly going to random observations for shock value. Everyone he explains his style to appears confused and just wants to either see him perform to judge for themselves or get away quickly. With his overeager agent, he feels pushed into a lot of his performances, even though he is seeking success. Still, the ultimate focus of the comedy is actually the featuring of Henry’s comedic songs, most of which are either highly offensive or at least catch people off-guard.

Ultimately, the comedic elements (other than the songs) are on the dry side and there is an awkward sombre nature to the entire film that seems to take away from to feel of its visible charm.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

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