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Comics as Straightmen

Today I ventured onto Netflix and found the documentary I am Road Comic (2014), a movie about traveling comedians that was heavily mentioned on Marc Maron's WTF podcast a while ago.

Wayne Federman, Public Domain.

The documentary follows a road gig with the director and Wayne Federman as they go to a venue in Washington state that is known for having a rough crowd. He is a comedian you see a lot but it can be hard to pick up his name. As he says in the movie, he tends to act in movies but for only one scene.

I've grown to appreciate him from podcast appearances he makes. In the last few months he did a lot of shows for an album he put out that has recordings that cover his whole career of 30+ years. He has been around, showing up on Comedy Central, on the Tonight Show, as the piano player for the Never Not Funny/ Smile Train telethon, but he has a very average look that makes him forgettable until you realize how memorable he is as a comedian.

Lately, he has been showing in commercials as "average guy with a funny line." I think he was in the Geico commercial where he was playing poker with Kenny Rogers. Hopefully he got a nice paycheck for that because in the documentary he shows the director how he can go a three day trip trying to not pay for any food at all. I think the only expense he has is buying a basketball to stay in shape in his downtime.

This is a very entertaining documentary that shows comedians when they are not "on." It shows some cunning reasonableness from comedians that leaks into reasonableness when it comes to being unreasonable. There are a lot of great interviews of comedians with many different takes on how to live on the road but with a common thread that on the road there are certain venues whose names are echoed by the cringes of fellow comedians.

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