NOT MUCH FUN MAKING A FUNNY FILM ABOUT ‘UNFUNNY’ COMEDIANS
Creating ‘No Joke’ (a documentary about ‘unfunny’ comedians) hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk for Director Matt Frame.
“The film wasn’t originally going to be about unfunny comedians,” he states, “that was a side effect of the failed original project.” That film (entitled ‘Confessions of a Comedian’) was to be an expose of the Vancouver comedy scene (the good, mediocre, and unfunny) but after six weeks Frame came to a rather disappointing realization: the footage was lousy. “It was bland and uninteresting,” says Frame, “For some reason the majority of the comedians I interviewed were unwilling to open up. It was like interviewing a suspicious customs agent or something.”
However, that abject failure wasn’t entirely a fruitless endeavor. Of the thirty-five comedians that Frame interviewed, four supplied the goods in spades. “They were some of the most honest and entertaining people that I had ever come across.” Subsequently, it
didn’t take Frame long to connect the dots. “In all areas, they were completely different from each other, except one,” Frame recalls, “each was considered woefully unfunny by audiences and fellow comedians alike.”
The task of pitching the ‘unfunny’ angle to comedians was easier than Frame imagined. “I thought I was going to get my ass kicked,” he states, “it was quite uncomfortable for me to say ‘look, I want to make a documentary about your journey as a artist but there is one catch: it’s going to be a film about comedians who everybody thinks are terrible.”
Of the nine ‘unfunny’ comedians who were pitched the film (then tentatively entitled ‘This Aint No Joke’ and later simply shortened to ‘No Joke’), all nine agreed on the spot. However, that number quickly diminished. “There was drama surrounding this film from the get-go,” says Frame, “As a result, some dropped out and the others I asked to leave. On occasion, forcefully, unfortunately.”
By the second month of the project, four ‘unfunny’ comedians remained. Filming focused on their day-to-day lives plus their comedy performances where (more often than not) they would flounder, sometimes to an embarrassing degree. “My god, it was painful at times,” Frame admits, “I kept thinking to myself ‘why do they keep doing this when it is so obvious that audiences hate them?”
By month seven, an American comedy tour had been booked with the penultimate comedic judgment coming via Jamie Masada, owner of the ‘Laugh Factory’ in Hollywood, California. However, a week before the scheduled tour, more drama ensued. “That was a stressful time,” recalls Frame, “firstly, I had one of the comics threaten me when I asked him to take a polygraph test to see if he truly believed he was funny and then another one quit the film altogether because he didn’t want to do the tour.”
Losing the last of the original nine was especially detrimental. “He was such an eccentric guy that provided the light hearted ‘wacky’ angle to the film so when he quit we were seriously lacking in that department.”
Enter ‘Vibrato,’ a 45 year-old fetish enthusiast fond of wearing a PVC harness (and not much else) that contains two-dozen battery powered vibrating motors. Hence his official designation ‘The Human Vibrator.’ His last minute entrance into the film as the de facto tour ‘manager’ was a minor miracle for Frame. “I’ve known Vibrato for years, “he says, “in addition to be one of the nicest guys I know he’s also one of the strangest. I knew he could provide the ‘wacky’ element in spades.” The gamble to include Vibrato appears to have paid off. According to members of a test screening of the film, Vibrato is the highlight of the film.
Fast-forward seventeen months (in which Frame dealt with legal and physical threats by one of the comics who attempted to block the release of the film) and ‘No Joke’ is finally having its much belated World Premiere at the Collingwood Cinema on Saturday night. With hindsight, how does Frame sum up the experience of making the film? “Not fun” he replies. So no ‘No Joke’ Part II? “Screw making a sequel,” Frame replies, “In fact, screw making another documentary. I’m done dealing with real people. They are too much work.”
‘No Joke’ World Premiere:
7pm, Saturday, January 12, 2013 at the Collingwood Cinema at 3215 Kingsway, East Vancouver. (Followed by reception and Michael Jackson Karaoke on the big screen @ 10pm)
‘No Joke’ Official Trailer: http://youtu.be/gWXDPyMWP-s ‘No Joke’
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/nojokefilm Advance Ticket Sales: http://www.nojokemovie.com