Showtime’s fantastic new series I’m Dying Up Here, is based on the old adage that “all comedy comes from pain.” Many comedians use jokes as a bizarre sort of therapy to try to purge the demons from their souls. From the first slapstick comic who ever slipped on a banana peel, to modern-day jokers who tell stories about their miserable childhoods, comedians invite audiences to laugh at the comedians’ suffering. Executive producer Jim Carrey drew from his own personal experiences to create I’m Dying Up Here.
I’m Dying Up Here is about a group of young comedians in Hollywood in the 1970’s trying to reach the ultimate pinnacle of success – an appearance on The Johnny Carson Show. Getting noticed in the 1970s was a much different process than it is today. There was no YouTube or Facebook you could use to promote yourself. The gatekeepers to comedic fame and fortune were the owners of sleazy comedy clubs. If you were a comedian just starting out, a comedy club owner might let you go on stage to tell jokes to a bunch of drunks at 2:30am.
The cast of I’m Dying Up Here is terrific. Melissa Leo is Goldie, the tough as nails owner of Goldie’s Comedy Club in Hollywood. She has connections with all the top T.V. producers including those at Johnny Carson. One word from Goldie can make or break a comedian’s career.
Ari Graynor is a Cassie, a young Jewish comic from rural Texas. Because of her unusual background, audiences have a hard time relating to her. She is not the stereotype that audiences expect from a female comedian. She is very attractive, in a world where female comedians are “supposed” to be ugly and base their acts on making fun of their physical failings. Instead, Cassie has a more sophisticated sense of humor that requires audiences to think. One of her jokes is “There are not very many Jews in my home town. Let’s just say that there are more Jews at a Walt Disney dinner party than in my home town.”
Andrew Santino is Cassie’s boyfriend Bill. All the other comedians hate Bill since his career is starting to be successful. He has developed his act to be in that perfect “middle ground”. Sharp enough to play in the comedy clubs, yet “safe” enough to appear on television. Bill feels the full hatred from the other comics, when he gets tapped to appear on the Midnight Special.
RJ Cyler is Adam, an African-American comic, who is too young to be taken seriously by the other comedians. Just to make ends meet, he takes a job as a handyman at Goldie’s house, where he discovers she is much more complex and sensitive than most people believe.
I’m Dying Up Here is great. It has complex plots and character development, and gives a real feel for the 1970s. A lot of shows about the 1970’s overdo the cliches about afros, bell-bottom trousers and drugs. I’m Dying Up Here gives a much more realistic picture, and remembers that there was a lot of hatred in the country in the 1970s. Divisions over The Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and Richard Nixon were pulling at the fabric of the country. It was a perfect time for the relief of comedy.
- We rate I’m Dying Up Here five stars *****
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- read our true Story Vietnam Diary – Day Zero The Plane Ride To The War.