i’m Dying up here is billed as a drama about comedy and that very clearly sums it up. But I want to dig a little deeper into this world of stand-up comics because I have my own ideas on what it’s about.
The show is Executive Produced by Jim Carrey and was created by David Flebotte. It centers around a group of struggling stand-up comedians in the late 1970’s. This was the time when comedians careers would live or die by Johnny Carson’s couch. I’ve always been fascinated with this time period in show business. It always seems like it was much more of a community of artists trying to make it rather than the backstabbing hustle it is today.
It occurred to me after watching the pilot that this type of “making it” doesn’t really exist anymore. I guess if you booked a spot on Ellen you would be sitting pretty good. But the only people who do that are viral video sensations or already established stars. There were so few outlets to get your name in the public unlike today where every Tom, Dick and Harry can start a Youtube channel or podcast to get noticed. Ahem.
So as you can imagine the pressure during this time to be seen by Johnny Carson’s people would be enormous. We follow the lives of a Comedy Store-like club owner played by Melissa Leo (Frozen River), RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Power Rangers) as a struggling stand up comedian, and Clark Duke (Greek, The Office) as one of the show’s two vulgar, young, and Boston-bred comics, just to name a few of the show’s regulars. The series also stars Ari Graynor (Bad Teacher), Michael Angarano, Stephen Guarino, and Erik Griffin.
I went to a special screening of the show at the Improv in LA where I had the chance to talk with Graynor and Duke about their experiences. They were so lovely and seemed genuinely excited about the buzz around the show. Neither one is a stand-up so they admitted it was a new muscle they had to work out. Duke pointed out it’s very similar to an actor learning a monologue in that you learn the beats and rhythms of each joke. Graynor said the cast really bonded during the experience and she hopes the fans can see their connection is real.
One thing I loved about this show is that even though it’s an ensemble cast, the two women in the cast are badasses. Leo and Graynor go head-to-head at one point and you don’t know which side you want to be on more. I have a feeling that Leo is going to be more a of a bad guy in future episodes and that is going to be amazing. The entire show makes me wish I had been around for the comedy hustle of Hollywood during this time. I feel like I could have been a pioneer instead of always chasing something that’s been done before.
The first episode is a mixture of dark comedy, and darker comedy which I am a huge fan of. Anyone who’s listened to my podcast can tell you a I love a good raunchy or mildly offensive joke. This show teeters between hilarious stand-up bits, and well, death. This time in Hollywood history is rife with story lines that if done right, could keep this show on for several seasons. All of the characters are wonderfully flawed and yet you want to see their journey anyway. Personally I can’t wait to see where they go from here. Hopefully they get to Carson’s couch eventually but not without a lot of dramatic comedy first.
i’m Dying up here premieres June 4 at 10PM ET/PT on Showtime and will be also be available on Hulu.