For every comedian you see knocking the audience dead on Leno or Letterman, there are thousands more who battle each week, not for the national spotlight, but for five minutes of stage time at some hole-in-the-wall diner, bar or book store. Their story is the central focus of the new documentary “Open Mic.”
In the spirit of such films as Hoop Dreams and Roger & Me, director Jason Dudek masterfully interweaves this trying tale of two aspiring comedians trying to make it to the big time, with stories by famous stand-ups such as Richard Jeni, Bobcat Goldthwait, Jeffrey Ross, Jim Breuer, Shawn Wayans, Charles Fleischer, Dom Irrera, Dave Chappelle, Brian Regan, Victoria Jackson, Bobby Collins and Howard Sternâ€™s sidekick Jackie â€œThe Joke Manâ€ Martling.
The filmâ€™s subject matter was inspired by producer Christopher Tuffinâ€™s own experiences as an â€œopen micâ€ comedian. â€œI saw it allâ€, Tuffin explains. â€œI saw a guy drop dead of a heart attack while performing at an open mic night showcase at the Back Door comedy club in Dallas, TX. I knew another guy with an attention deficit disorder, who, when nervous, would steal jokes from the guy who went on before him.â€
â€œWhen I was breaking in, they held performances in the back of bowling alleys, feed stores virtually anywhere someone could get five minutes of stage time in front of an audience,â€ Tuffin recalls. â€œHere were comedians who were trying to get discovered in a place no one would ever see them. Despite these odds, something compelled them to persevere. Most of them were trying to be funny night after night while during the day they were dodging bill collectors, standing in the unemployment line or going through therapy. Still, they kept reaching for that brass ring.â€
Years later while working together on the Fox film “Thereâ€™s Something About Mary,” Tuffin told these stories to his fellow crew member, Jason Dudek. The two decided they wanted to bring these stories to the big screen to show audiences how difficult it was to break into show business.
â€œI must have looked at over 300 open mic night performersâ€, Dudek explains. One of the subjects he finally settled on was a struggling, Woody Allen-like comedic hopeful named Dan Aubrey.
Open Mic appears regularly at [ www.openmikethemovie.com ]. Two drink minimum. Please remember to tip your waitress.