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Behind The Comedy Curtain: What Stand-Up Comedy Documentaries Are Uncovering

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A desire to reveal the world behind stand-up comedy has led filmmakers and investigative journalists to a unique genre: stand-up comedy documentaries. Creators of these documentaries set out to answer questions such as: Out of all career paths, what type of person pursues stand-up comedy? What does it take to make it in the industry? And what does the day-to-day grind feel like?

Not Just Anyone Can Be a Comedian

Comedy has a buzz of energy, even in laid-back contexts. Comedians are responsible for dictating the vibe in a room with their presence and delivery. Stand-ups see a daunting world with humor and find commonalities that connect to an audience. Writing original, current, and accessible content requires a level of commitment and skill that few artists truly master. Comedians can't be afraid of failure, as seamless setups and punchlines are perfected over periods of trial and error. Pro comedians develop a thick skin and let "off-nights" slide off their backs, developing a unique but necessary resiliency. The documentary Alone Up There (2012) examines these specific personality traits and qualities that set stand-ups apart from other entertainers.

Stand Up Comedians Reveal Themselves

Unlike other categories of comedy, stand-up requires immediacy, authenticity, and rawness that is the lifeblood of the industry. This art of "revealing oneself" is both the draw and the challenge of stand-up. Writing autobiographically, while still relating to the audience, is a difficult balancing act. Self-deprecation is a common topic in comedy, but stand-ups often go deeper and examine their lives to find universal human issues. "I think almost all stand-ups do stand-up so they can talk to a younger version of themselves," said comedian Cameron Esposito.

Trends in the Industry

Documentaries not only highlight individual stand-up comedians but examine the genre as a whole and the trends that dictate the industry. The 2009 documentary Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy gave an insider's overview of cultural influences in comedy, specifically looking at using humor to confront racism. In the 2014 documentary Women Aren't Funny, Bonnie McFarlane investigated gender biases in comedy. In 2015, Kevin Pollak looked at whether comedians need to be "miserable" to get laughs in his production, Misery Loves Comedy.

With the broad scope of these documentaries, comedy fans will be both entertained and informed by the look into the lives of their favorite stand-up performers. Learn more about stand up comedy documentaries by contacting companies like Cooperstown Properties, LLC.