Posted September 4, 2008 in Film

Imagine the fragile bravery of a comic: One man, one mic, and an audience—what other art is as perilously codependent for success? Michael Addis’ documentary, produced by and starring Jamie Kennedy, kicks off by examining the potential cruelty of the audience-stand-up relationship as pretty much every comic in the biz from Andy Milonakis to Bill Maher share the times strangers felt justified shouting “You suck!” and threatening to kill their families. Are hecklers drunk, needy, or opponents of the First Amendment? Addis unearths clip after clip of stress-induced meltdowns—in one instance, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada explains what happened to Michael Richards, and Arsenio Hall is allowed a rebuttal. Just when the psychology gets interesting, the flick detours to question if film critics and bloggers are also bullies—the uniform answer is yes—and Kennedy confronts critics about why they’ve panned everything in his oeuvre, asking “Why do you hate me?” and “Have you had sex lately?” The only comic more denigrated than the star of Malibu’s Most Wanted is Carrot Top; when Kennedy reads him his savage press, Top is empathetically confused as he counters that his audience enjoys themselves every night. Heckler is a fun cathartic screed—it’s the best thing Kennedy’s ever made—but though it invites us to navel-gaze the destroy-your-idols culture that spawned Perez Hilton, the comics circle back around from defending their right to the free speech to denying others a voice. Kennedy objects to objections about his mean-spirited jokes; the unexplored subtext of this solid film is why all humor has gone negative? And while the progress of art does depend on detractors justifying their hatred for Son of the Mask, Kennedy can’t point to anything good about his film except a buff CGI baby. (Amy Nicholson)



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