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By Doug Brunell | November 8, 2005

“Hacks” is a black and white “documentary” about the Diamond and Hutz talent agency, which consists of two talent scouts that are about five miles past clueless, and the comedians it represents. The film is subversive, witty, vulgar, depressing, and insanely funny.
The stand-up talent represented by Lucius Diamond (Glenn Rockowitz) and Baxter Hutz (David G. Cohen) hit upon all the clichés, but with an almost surreal twist. The sexist black comic, Otis Jackson (Victor Varnado,) is an albino, while the guy in the wheelchair is a dour moron named Skully (Perry Wolberg) who doesn’t invoke the slightest bit of sympathy or laughter (at least not at his jokes.) “I’m magazine smart,” Skully explains at one point. He also thinks that when people are quiet, they really want to learn, so he fills them with useless facts such as one that states that the average person is a Chinese woman. The lone female comic in the group, Slappy (Angela Muto,) tells crude jokes about her vagina and yeast infections. She also berates her husband/manager, Bart (Bart Shattuck,) before a comedy festival because he forgot to bring her hockey mask with them. Slappy needs it after being beaned in the head with a bottle during her stand-up routine. And while Slappy is an extroverted boor, John “Roachy” Galt (John Roach) is a man deeply troubled by life and his inappropriate love for underage girls. Roachy’s act has nothing to do with comedy, either. He does imitations of Ed Sullivan (or Edward G. Robinson if you’re Diamond,) Elvis and so on. Roachy’s only friend in the group is the silent Dhrupick (Mark Yuhasz,) whose comedy is along the lines of god-before-his-time Andy Kaufman’s. With a cast of characters like this, there is little need for a binding element; the comedians would be a kick to watch regardless of what they did. What viewers are treated to, however, is an arduous journey to an outdoor comedy show.
Diamond and Hutz enlist their talent in the generically named Upstate Comedy Festival, but first they need training by the U.S. Comedy Corps, which is run by Arty Hittle (Jim Gaffigan in an excellent cameo). Hittle has no stand-up experience, but he knows how to work a crowd. Instead of giving useful tips, however, Hittle does things like tell Skully that he may want to try a different profession. In Hittle’s wise opinion, Skully looks like the kind of chap people “would take fliers from.” Great advice.
The comedians actually do make it to the festival, but it is not what anyone expects. To say too much will ruin the laughs, but it does involve chickens, a waiter turned new comedian who steals the heart of a certain lady, a bit of shoving and some of the most uncomfortable looking audience members ever witnessed.
“Hacks” is a phenomenal work of art. It’s only fault is that it pretends to be a real documentary, but never really looks like one. The characters and some of their knee-slapping flashbacks push that minor quibble aside, though. Rockowitz, a comedian who wrote and directed this, has a knack for knowing not only what is intellectually funny, but what is also inappropriately humorous. There isn’t much that is safe in this film, and there’s plenty to make people squirm in their seats, but that’s what great comedy should do. Rockowitz, like all the great comedians, is having fun at the expense of his audience, and that puts his film in the realm of inspired genius. Festivals have banned it, and the Academy will (thankfully) ignore it. That only proves its point, though. Comedy is a dangerous weapon, and this is a full-scale nuclear attack.
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