Rated NR

Comedy is about fear, or so we would believe from this documentary about the art of making people laugh. Directed by Christian Charles and shot on grainy handheld video, it follows former TV star Jerry Seinfeld’s road to restart his career as a stand-up comedian after abandoning every word of the famous material he spent 20 years building. Painstakingly developing all new jokes a precious five minutes at a time, Seinfeld haunts hole-in-the-wall comedy clubs from coast to coast, where he interacts with veteran comics and hungry upstarts. The camera captures Seinfeld’s candid backstage conversations—about insecurity, the nuances of comedy and the fear of losing the edge—with Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling, Colin Quinn, Robert Klein and Bill Cosby. These scenes are truly touching and sometimes spontaneously funny, but their strength is undermined by the inordinate amount of camera time given to up-and-coming comedian Orny Adams, who shares an agent with Seinfeld. Adams is arrogant, annoying, self-centered and, worst of all, not funny. Guess he’s supposed to be the counterpoint to Seinfeld and the rest of the class acts on screen.

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