A man walks up to the corner of 57th and 6th Avenue and asks a bum, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The Bum looks at him with a blank sober stare, looks across the street to where, unknowing to the man, Carnegie Hall is and says, "Practice, lots of Practice." In a nut shell and far more masterfully conveyed, this is the message of the wonderful new documentary "The Improv".
The Improv started in midtown Manhattan on 9th Avenue several decades ago. It was initially a place for Broadway performers to go after their shows and " hang out", eat, talk and sing a song or two at the open mic. Every fourth or fifth song the owner, legendary Budd Friedman, would "break it up" by letting a fledgling comic tell a joke or two. Oddly enough, these young comics were folks like, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, the Waynans, Richard Pryor and the more mature Rodney Dangerfield, to name a few.
After a time, comedy and laughter became the main order of the night at the club and thusly this world class nesting ground for new comics was born. Comics, if accepted after an audition, would do 20 minutes of "Stand-Up" and "work to kill" , a phrase used to convey being so good that you knock your audience out. That's how good you were expected to be. Jimmy Fallen talks about how he would go to the club every night to work out his craft. Silverman talks about tempering her language and still tell a provocative joke.
Comedians spend 20 minutes to an hour on stage but they work, like any artist, 24 hours every day on their craft. Observing, writing material; watching other comedians for ideas and criticizing their own deliveries. The Improv for so many great artist was the testing ground, a place to woodshed and hone crafts. There are some great interviews in this documentary showing the work and focus. The Improv, will make you smile until your jaw muscles ache with joy.
Stars: Budd Friedman, Dave Attell, Judd Apatow, Lewis Black, Larry David, Jimmy Fallon, Kathy Griffin, Jay Leno, Richard Lewis, Bill Maher, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman and the Wayans brothers
Narrerated by: Adam Sandler