All Joking Aside [Film]


“Charlene Murray (Charlie to her friends) isn’t your average twenty-one year old.  Inspired by her late father’s unrealized ambitions, she wants nothing more in life than to be a stand-up comic, and is equal parts thrilled and terrified by the fact that she’s finally old enough to get into a comedy club and actually try her material in front of paying customers. So with a fistful of jokes, and her stalwart friend Kim there to get her back, she heads to the Laughing Hyena, one of New York’s faded comedic hot spots, to hit her first ever open mic night.  Glued to his barstool at the back of the room, with his fourth whiskey of the night in hand is Bob Carpenter, and he’s not going to stop heckling until Charlie gives up the microphone.  It doesn’t take long before he gets exactly what he wants, and Charlie, chastened, flees the club with Kim on her tail. When she later returns to the Hyena to talk to the manager Dennis, he tells Charlie that if she really wants to learn the craft, then she’s got to be writing all the time, and studying people who know what they’re doing; people like Bob who, before his marriage and career collapsed and he became an alcoholic heckler, used to be one of the top touring comics in the country.  He pulls out some old VHS tapes of the young and energetic performer, first showing him own the crowd with his raw, edgy material, and then in a different clip from his final performance a few years later, literally attacking them.  Impressed by this new side of him, and with Dennis’ encouragement, Charlie decides that Bob is going to be her mentor whether he likes it or not, and sets about winning him over.   As the two slowly feel each other out, what develops is an unlikely friendship based on broken families, a healthy appreciation of sarcasm, and the undeniable rush of making a whole room full of people laugh.” – October Coast PR





Folks, it’s no secret that we love stand up comedy here at Trainwreck’d Society. We have interviewed dozens of comedic greats of the past and current times. It is such a wildly specific art form that requires so little in the form of physical performance, yet requires so much more mentally than what meets the eye. I’ve heard it said before that, yes, “anyone”, can do stand up comedy simply because it does not require any physical skills beyond a microphone (sometimes) and a voice. But obviously, it takes so much more than just the ability to speak in public. It’s the reason that (at least pre-pandemic, anyway) it felt like 100 new people a day were “starting” in comedy, and 50 people were giving it up, if I had to make some rough estimates. A person could be the most naturally funny person around the old proverbial water cooler at their 9 to 5, but it doesn’t mean they are going to make it in the business, or even have the charisma to pull it off. And that is something that I believe filmmaker Shannon Kohli and screenwriter James Pickering were keenly aware of when they were bringing All Joking Aside to life.

I will be honest with you all, Folks. I am very aware that many times over, films about stand up comedy simply just fall flat. So many times I find myself realizing that my love for stand up comedy is what keeps bringing me to movies that “explore” the world of stand up. And obviously they’re not all going to work. Bull Durham and Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch are both technically about baseball, but there is a clear distinction between the two. Not just any film about stand up comedy is going to work. Too often the job and the art form of itself is set aside to dig more into the character themselves, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it always works best when the stand up is integrated consistently into the character development. And I am here to say it loud and proud to you all, All Joking Aside does just that. The story is simple enough, yet with complex characters, secrets lying just below the emotional surface, and a very well written story filled with wit and joy and pain and love, this film pulls off what so many other stand up comedy related films could in the past.



Yes, All Joking Aside is a brilliant film that is well written and shot beautifully. But of course, the film could have totally fallen flat if it weren’t for some damn fine performances. Pretending to be a stand up comic is probably one of the hardest feats to get right in the world of cinema, but hot damn if Raylene Harwood doesn’t absolutely KILL in this film. I believed every single moment of drive she displayed as Charlie. She absolutely CRUSHED it, if I might throw one more stand up related piece of lingo. And of course, veteran actor Brian Markinson gives a performance of his life time as the grizzled old comedy vet. He’s a unique character, but if you are highly engrossed in the world of comedy, I may imagine you could envision a Dave Attell like character who just sort of fell out of the way. Maybe Barry Crimmins. But, maybe we are digging in to deep here. Raylene and Brian made a hell of an on-screen duo, one of the best of the year, in what is most definitely one of the Top Ten films of 2020.


ALL JOKING ASIDE is available now On Demand from Quiver Distribution, wherever you stream great films.



About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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