Sunday Matinee: Always Amazing [Film]

 

When I was but a young boy growing up in the 90’s, I only had four favorite comedians. And it has only come to my mind in recent years who exactly the main four were. I enjoyed sitcoms and films featuring folks like Sinbad and Tim Allen, but I really didn’t know enough about stand up comedy to know that this is where they came from, thus they are not in my first four. Who were those first four? Well, I will cut the shit and tell you, as I can only imagine if you are reading this at all, you probably know who I am going to dramatically end with, and then throw in a few sentences about other comedians who made me happy as a youth, of which you won’t care, but I will continue to talk about because this is my site and I will do whatever the fuck I want to do. Fight me. I’m sorry. I probably wouldn’t fight. Anyway those comedians were: George Carlin, Andrew Dice Clay, Jeff Foxworthy, and….yeah, you guessed it, The Amazing Johnathan. The first two were simply the products of a 9 year old boy living in the New Mexico desert who was told not to listen to certain CD’s in his Dad’s CD collection, so of course he had to listen to certain CDs in his Dad’s CD collection and would eventually learn about the 7 words you can’t say on TV as well as the idea that Old Mother Hubbard was really just wanting some some serious dog dicking. Foxworthy was a product of my mother being somewhat of a “redneck”, but not really, and his stuff being clean enough to play on road trips with me in the car. And c’mon, I was probably like 10 when he really broke.

The latter though, was more of a product of my own bemusement, and actually came around the early pre-teen years for me. The Amazing Johnathan was an almost spastic psychopath that I feel was put on a loop for so many years on the new founded network that seemed to only come on at my Dad’s house because he had cable in the city known as Comedy Central. Back in the day, when CC still cared about stand up comedy (they’re coming back to it, I know) you could not miss this incredible “magician”. His antics were as animated as they were clever, and I couldn’t get enough of the guy.

Cut to almost two decades later: Carlin remained in my wheelhouse probably because I began to adore the films of Kevin Smith; Dice somehow managed to reach legendary status, a feat that only time will understand; Foxworthy stayed the course and managed to only be the 3rd weakest member of his crew falling short of a dude with a fake name and damn good line of beer bread you seem to only find in the midwest; and The Amazing Johnathan…..I feel like I NEVER heard from him again.

And then one rainy day in 2019, I’m listening to an episode of Doug Loves Movies, and I hear the always wonderful Steve Byrne talking about a documentary he has made about somebody named The Amazing Johnathan, and it’s free on YouTube. So I thought, “Well, I better check this shit out before they decide to charge for it!”. And as soon as I saw that face, that bandana, and that bewilderment, I was immediately sent back in time to a much simpler era of my life. There he was, the one who got away. Now, this is not to say that The Amazing Johnathan wasn’t out there performing and doing amazing (as one would assume, right?) things out there in the world while I was losing and then regaining interest in the world of comedy. No, he was out there killing it in pre-internet, pre-400 streaming services, world of Vegas and beyond and just somehow completely missing my radar. But thanks to the wonderful Steve Byrne and the insane people at All Things Comedy, we have an amazing documentary available for free (so, so, stupid, we’ll get into that) on YouTube entitled Always Amazing. And I’m here to tell you, Folks: it’s absolutely brilliant.

 

 

Always Amazing is, first and foremost, an absolutely brilliantly made documentary. It tells the tale of a true to life screw up who used his wild personality to achieve acclaim and fortune by forming an identity that was completely wrapped around the power of being zany. The Amazing Johnathan clearly had an animated soul, and the comedic sensibilities that combined the appeal of Gallagher with the psychosis of Charles Manson. And it worked! For so many damn years, it worked beautifully. What do you do when you realize you may not be the best “magician” in the world? Well, you first realize that you are also an incredibly funny person, and you make the two work together! I believe that is truly what this film is all about at its core. But beyond this fact, this is also the tale of a man who befriends a young boy and they have a healthy relationship as friends over the years. Now, I know that last line seems a bit strange and out of left field, but save it people. There are jokes to be made, and as we learn throughout the film may be right in Johnathan’s proverbial wheelhouse, but what is truly on display here is a pure bond that is so touching and insanely heartfelt. Nothing more.

The film is also the documentation of a man who lived a life, as the kids would say: hard AF. In the 90’s you were never really an “alcoholic” or a “drug addict”, as long as you were a performer. If you created art in any kind of way, you were an artist, not a drunk. We didn’t seem to combine the two. Tupac Shakur was a straight up pothead and alcoholic, and died at 25 years old. But, he was idolized because of the art he created. Hunter S. Thompson was an absolute madman and was lucky that he was such a wildly bad shot with a pistol that he never killed anyone before killing himself. But, the ART! This is what signified The Amazing Johnathan as a true talent. He was always fucked up. But, guess what? 14 year old Ronnie Trembath didn’t know that watching his Comedy Central specials. I didn’t know the pain behind the eyes. How would I have guessed that 20 years later I would be watching a film about this man on this new “internet” thing and realizing, “oh, he was just fucked up all the time!”. But alas, here we are. And thanks to the likes of folks like Steve Byrne, we are now learning what exactly are the consequences of a life lived so hard and based around the means of enthralling audiences.

I am completely aware that we are in a weird renaissance for comedy. Over the last 5 years or so, I have returned to loving the format, and actually got my ass out to some shows lately. Documentaries about road dog comics and television personalities are becoming rampant as the bubble continues to blow up. The infiltration of comedians into podcasting and YouTube has really made this whole set up flourish. Think about it: podcasts are simply talk radio. YOUNG PEOPLE ARE LISTENING TO TALK RADIO! It’s truly fascinating. So with that thought in mind, I am truly not that surprised to see that The Amazing Johnathan is having his moment back in the sun, all in his time of dying.

 

So, Folks, please see the below link to check out Always Amazing. And if you can find some way to give money to Steve Byrne, All Things Comedy, the film’s crew, whoever it is, please consider doing so as, again, this incredibly well made documentary about an incredible human being is FREE! Enjoy!

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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