Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show

Slightly better than you’d think -- 2.5 stars

Directed by Ari Sandel. February 2008, USA. Rated R: 100 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 2/11/2008)

Did you think Dodgeball was a cutting-edge comedy with lots of hilarious characters and memorable one-liners? Did you see Old School and think immediately afterwards, Hot damn, I wish I could meet cool and funny guys like them in college? Me neither. In fact, I would argue that the Vaughn/Ferrell/Stiller/Wilson clique includes the most overrated comedians of this decade. For that reason, I went to see Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show with low expectations.

As it turns out, this documentary about a 30-stops-in-30-days stand-up and sketch comedy tour is completely watchable — not due to the stale, wisecracking Vince Vaughn, but thanks to four up-and-coming comedians (Ahmed Ahmed, Bret Ernst, John Caparulo and Sebastian Maniscalco) Vaughn borrowed from the world-famous Comedy Store, a Los Angeles-based troupe that once showcased the likes of Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, George Carlin and David Letterman. Despite the film’s frequently awkward sound mixing and the live audience’s occasional heckling, the comedians make a convincing argument for their ability to entertain with their honest and authentic bits. The behind-the-scenes interviews with the comedians and their families, along with candid footage of tour bus shenanigans, give insightful glimpses into the everyday lives of traveling performers. The comedians’ extreme attention to perfecting their craft impressed me; a few boos at one poorly-executed joke is sometimes all it takes to unleash a major bout of depression. Few professions force people to expose so much of their personal lives but, for the comedians in Wild West Comedy Show, the reward of inspiring laughter is worth the risk of being insulted.