Wednesday, July 3, 2013

NXNE 2013 Film Review - No Joke

What would happen if you took three comedians that were hated jeered and generally despised in their home city to another location to tell their jokes? Would those new audiences react the same or might they find the trio funny? That is the question that director Matt Frame asked as he took three Vancouver comedians on a tour down the West coast on the way to Los Angeles for individual auditions with Jamie Masada at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles.

The comedians James Brown, Ali Hemraj and David D.J. Roy have absolutely nothing in common.  Brown appears to be the closest to a normal guy. He can get some jokes on occasion but tends to go to the racial element too often. D.J. Roy is basically homeless living on and off in a halfway house and turning to porn work on occasion for money. Roy delivers routines that on most occasions produces silence in the room. Hemraj is a terror, angry and prone to jokes about child abuse and violence that often sparks disbelief or downright anger from audiences.

The three head out on a 7 city U.S. tour down the pacific coast along with their road manager Vibrato 3.72 armed with a leather black vibrating suit and prone to giving hugs to girls so they can feel it working.

Director Frame catches the interaction amongst the three comedians and their bumbling manger as they head out on tour. They spend countless hours in the rental car and Motel 6 hotel rooms in between performances in small clubs, storefronts and impromptu sets in the street. Despite their differences the group really does get along except for only a few instances. Frame is also the main narrator of the piece discussing how the shows set up at each location, giving the order of the comedians as they hit the stage plus a couple of comments on how each set went.

James Brown as expected is polished and has the most good sets on the way to California. Surprisingly Hemraj does find the occasional audience that will accept his humour while D.J. Roy tends to struggle often commenting in the post set confessional that he could do better.

One of the high points is James Browns routine on a roller coaster displaying his relationship and race relations humour. Another is Hemraj's painful set in a San Francisco laundry where he goes hard on the racial humour in a multi cultural room. The tension during his set is palpable and it's a very real possibility that he will not make it out of the shop in one piece. A third is the sad back story of David D.J. Roy the hard times that he has seen some elements that are so bad that he would not talk about them on camera.

Frame keeps the action moving at a very good pace and does an excellent job editing the individual sets and introducing the back story of each comic as the piece moves along. A particularly good piece of editing is the voice over narration shifting back and forth between each comedian and Vibrato as they hit each city and give their view of events. Frame moves seamlessly between the characters and the voice overs flow very naturally.  He also presents the material as not to telegraph the ending at the private evaluations with Jamie Masada.

Not to be missed is the Ray Gill (featuring James Brown) interlude of T.C.O.B. ( Taking.Care.Of. Business) a guerrilla shot video on the streets of Vancouver thats featured in the James Brown back story.

At some times legitimately funny and others unintentionally funny No Joke is worth viewing. It takes a moment to get going but once they get in the car and head across the boarder the action heats up. Frame took two years to complete the production including a postscript on the comics 6 months after the tour. No Joke is a film that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

No Joke | Matt Frame | Canada /U.S.A. | 2013 |109 Minutes.

NXNE 2013.

Tags: Comedians, Vancouver, Laugh Factory, Road Comics, Jamie Masada, Seattle, San Franciso, Los Angeles, Ray Gill, Motel 6.

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