Is 2015 the Year of the Funny Documentary?

Is 2015 the Year of the Funny Documentary?

Jan 30, 2015

Most of the documentaries we discuss each year focus on serious, important issues -- topics that are newsworthy and with purpose. The kind of stuff that may help change the world one day. But that doesn't mean docs can't offer up a good laugh, too. With an influx of amusing documentaries on the Sundance Film Festival docket this year, we couldn't help but wonder whether 2015 would become the year of the funny doc.

Here are a few we liked the most.

Misery Loves Comedy

Do you have to be miserable to be funny? This is the question Kevin Pollak eventually asks as he has comedians open up about their day (and night) job. Comedians like Tom Hanks, Larry David, Jimmy Fallon, Judd Apatow, Marc Maron,and Amy Schumer -- plus actors such as Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sam Rockwell -- pipe in on the discussion. If you're surprised about including Prinze Jr., then you don't know his dad. There are so many comedians in this film it almost becomes a thing. Hey, I wonder why John Mulaney and Jerry Seinfeld aren't in this documentary? Well, instead of wondering we get into the minds -- and dare we say hearts -- of these comedians. We wanted to hug Schumer afterward, even if she probably would have brilliantly made fun of us for caring. It's a broad conversation, and we've seen better individual explorations into the minds of comedians (like Comedian), but this is a really great way to showcase the necessary pain, self-loathing and even occasional misery that comes from our brilliant comedians, and the joy they give us.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

While we love comedy, some of us didn't realize National Lampoon -- especially the magazine and radio show -- was the beginning. Thankfully, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon now exists to enlighten us. The film features Chevy Chase, Kevin Bacon, Christopher Guest, Judd Apatow and many others, as they give us behind-the-scenes accounts of what seems like the craziest, most fun and occasionally scariest place to work. The evolution of James Belushi is also part of the story. It is heartbreaking to realize we will never fully knew the true genius of Belushi because when he was on top of his game at Second City or the National Lampoon tours, there wasn't a camera, or at least not a very good one. Thankfully, the film does showcase the intelligent, comedic mind of the slightly demented Doug Kenney. While he wasn't the only one pulling the strings, he seemed to be doing it best. And here we thought he was just the odd one marching the band to a dead end in Animal House. If you don't know the story, or just know most of the story, you owe it to yourself to see Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.

Call Me Lucky 

Bobcat Goldthwait is a force. Sometimes you won't like the results, but you can see he puts his heart and soul into every project he touches. (It's just that you might not like his particular heart and/or soul.) With this documentary, directed by Goldthwait, you will fall in love, if you aren't already. The subject of the film is Barry Crimmins. Do us a favor, don't look him up. We didn't know who this comedian from the '80s was, and that will serve you best to smack you upside the head when you see this film. It's brilliant. Goldthwait gets you to relax and laugh about an angry comic.

Then the film starts to go in a dark direction. You're teased with suspense, and your jaw will drop. He became an activist after having a heartbreaking life. He is a hero. Goldthwait captures that in this beautiful, life-changing film, with great interviews from other comedians who love Crimmins. It is shocking that we weren't familiar with him considering Patton Oswalt and others consider him a god (in a good way). It's a movie where you can focus on the social, the political or the personal life of Crimmins. Most importantly, just focus and see this film.


Finders Keepers

Sometimes the truth is definitely stranger than fiction, and that's certainly the case with this documentary about two men fighting over a severed leg. When John Wood lost his leg in an airplane crash back in 2004, he asked doctors if he could bring the severed leg home with the intention of using it to create a memorial to honor his father, who died in the accident. However, when Wood fails to keep up the rent on a storage locker housing the leg, it winds up in the hands of local entrepreneur Shannon Whisnant, whose thirst for fame and fortune leads him to use Wood's severed leg to create a media empire... or so he hopes. What follows is this hilariously touching story about love, loss, addiction and forgiveness, as two men with different motives continually try to get a leg up (pun intended) on one another. This is one of those stories you really need to see to believe.

**additional reporting by Erik Davis




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