Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 86 minutes
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“Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” This old adage may be amusing but is also one hundred percent on the money. While other genres such as action or horror (especially horror) can fashion a certain charm from being bad, garnering a cult following upon their ineptness (RE: “Showgirls”, “Battlefield Earth”, Any Ed Wood film) if a comedy fails then it simply sits there on the screen, floundering uncomfortably. This brings us to Eric Jewell and Jeff Hays’ “Schtickmen” which is filled with intriguing and humorous set ups but somehow manages to derail most of the comic potential.
“Schtickmen” deals with the plight of stand up comedian Jerry Martin (Dean Lewis) who teaches comedy classes and driver’s education in order to make ends meet. Jerry sees the opportunity to make a splash in the world of comedy if he can win an upcoming stand up comedy competition but is weary of one of the judges, an old foe named Jim “Buckeye” Marvin (David Wilk) who has made it big. While the scenarios of Jerry attempting to teach comedy to a clueless class and dealing with his feelings of resentment towards “Buckeye” at making it big are both engaging premises the film’s humor is far too broad.
The main thrust of the humor to be mined from the film is from Jerry’s inept class but therein lies the problem, the audience is supposed to laugh at the fact these people aren’t funny. Add to this the fact that the class is made up of stereotypes like the dumb construction worker or the creepy mortician, and the jokes are telegraphed a mile away (The construction worker is a sexist! The mortician is too grim!). The “Buckeye” storyline never pans out because instead of being a real character he is a obnoxious jerk who steals all of his material from other comedians. In other words he really isn’t that funny either. There is another old saying which is “In the kingdom of the blind the man with one eye is king”. “Schtickmen” seems to take this idea and operate from the misguided assumption that if every other character is less funny than Jerry than his material will be a lot stronger.
The jokes come far too easy with Jerry continually heckling “Buckeye” for having an underage girlfriend and using skits such as Jerry bombing in front of a group of cancer patients (Why are the patients so hostile towards him? The doctor told them it was a comedy show!). Played darker and more straight “Schtickmen” had the potential to be a real gem. Showing Jerry’s resentment towards a truly funny comedy class and the gifted “Buckeye” would have been much more compelling and built to funnier jokes.
This is not to say the film doesn’t have its moments. There are some one liners that do payoff (“Why do people always act surprised when they open Dracula’s coffin? What were they expecting?!”) but there is too much time in between them. Dean Lewis who plays Jerry Martin is a stand up comedian in real life and is a likeable enough guy but he needs a better platform for his humor than this.
“Schtickmen” is especially frustrating because conceptually it is a funny idea but opts to take the easy way out instead of working towards more substantial laughs. In a medium that is filled with clichéd ideas it is nice to see a set up as solid as the one in “Schtickmen”, hopefully next time Jewell and Hays will be able to capitalize upon it.
Posted on December 12, 2004 in Reviews by Greg Bellavia
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