When you’ve started at the bottom, that half a million for a show feels MILES away…
New on DVD & Blu-Ray tomorrow, The Opening Act is a slight but fun affair about the lower rungs of the comedy world featuring a who’s who of comics who felt invested in getting some war stories from the entry levels of the stand-up comedy world out into the world as a reminder to never give up and take your lumps in order to achieve your dreams.
Will Chu (Jimmy O Yang) is stuck in a thankless job while trying to pursue his true passion in life, becoming a stand-up comedian. When he gets the opportunity he’s been waiting for, the emcee slot on the road opening for his hero Billy G. (Cedric The Entertainer), the realities of life on the stage come crashing in. Between relentless hecklers, drunk comedy groupies and hard-to-impress morning radio DJs, things get off to a rough start. Even if he can learn from his idols and overcome the challenges, he’ll have to prove he has what it takes to make his dream a reality.
From the mind of writer/director Steve Byrne who is himself a stand-up comedian, The Opening Act allows us to go on the showbiz journey that people can lose sight of from the outside looking in. It can get more than a little crazy at times and generally is one hell of a thankless grind to get where you need to be. It’s funny, but it’s serious and it’s true.
You’d have to call this a dramedy and it probably wouldn’t have happened with Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley serving as producers as this film really walks an interesting line between gonzo comedy and straight drama. Byrne here has crafted something that is a little basic, but it works as we follow the formula and he does a solid job of letting the jokes land but also letting the awkward moments simmer. It’s kind of the point as this is the kind of film that is meant to make us laugh, feel inspired but also squirm in our seats in remembering the price that any of us paid in order to get to our dreams.
While it’s not a film that’s going to light the world on fire from a stylistic standpoint, it does exactly what it needs to be doing.
Jimmy O Yang was a great and perhaps the only choice to play Will as he shares a lot of obvious parallels with the career of Steve Byrne and he was perfect as the doe eyed young comic getting ready to get fed to the wolves. Cedric The Entertainer does some great work here at the veteran performer Billy G who is meant to guide him along the way while Alex Moffat as the fast living comic shows him how not to be while maybe having some fun with it all at the same time.
While there isn’t a ton of real character development in this one, the film is loaded with comedy luminaries who are obviously there as a favor and really connecting with the story that this film is telling. Ken Jeong, Whitney Cummings, Bill Burr, Alfonso Bodden, Neal Brennan, Tom Segura and Ilza Shlesinger to name a few all find their way in the film to help tell this story that in many ways they’ve all lived in some way, shape and form.
The special features on the DVD include a brief making of The Opening Act, stories from established comics on how they started and some extended stand up seasons.
At the end of the day, The Opening Act has a really important message that needs to be heard for anyone in chase of a dream. No matter what…don’t quit because you’ll be faced with reasons to every single day in search of the pinnacle of success.