By Stina Chyn | April 29, 2005

In filmmaker Jim Goodman’s mind, a person doesn’t necessarily go to Hell because he was bad. He can end up there because he stinks at his craft, hobby, or job. For the human in Goodman’s claymation short “The Devil & Manny Schmeckstein” (2004), poor comedy skills lead to an elevator ride to Hell. Manny (voiced by Dick Rodstein) is a standup comedian probably in his late sixties. When the film begins, he is doing a set with a brick wall and one ceiling light for a stage. He starts talking about his wife Beatrice who was packing her bags. He tries to finish the joke but the audience doesn’t respond very well. Manny gets nervous, sweats raindrops, and collapses next to the microphone. He doesn’t wake up. His soul leaves his body. An elevator door appears in the middle of the brick wall and opens. Manny cautiously enters and finds himself in the company of a man in a suit. This man introduces himself as the Devil (also voiced by Dick Rodstein) and explains to Manny that ineffectively performing a task is sufficient enough reason to land one underground as opposed to above the clouds. The Devil gives Manny a chance to make it to Heaven: make a resident of Hell laugh. Winner of a handful of film festival awards for Best Animation (Boston International and New Jersey International) and Claymation (Garden State), “The Devil & Manny Schmeckstein” is artfully created, humorously written, and re-interprets the common definition of and difference between Hell and Heaven.

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