Not being a big fan of Vince Vaughn or comedy in general, I had my own preconceived notions and was already a bit skeptical before going to see the film “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show.”
DIRECTED BY: Ari Sandel
STARRING: Vince Vaughn, Justin Long, Ahmed Ahmed, Sebastian Maniscalco, Bret Ernst, John Caprulo
SHOWING AT: Area Theaters
Vaughn describes the film as a variety show based off of the old west version popularized by Wild Bill Hickock, including stand up gags, music and crowd interaction. The title pretty much sums up what the film is about, the cast literally goes to 30 cities in 30 days and the wear starts to show in the bags under their eyes toward the end.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasn’t what I expected. After seeing the posters around campus I was thinking, “What, another Blue Collar Comedy Tour?”
For the first 30 minutes it really seemed to be going in that direction. Early on, the stand-up routine was dry and monotonous, but it picked up and by the end I came out feeling pretty good.
An endearing aspect of the film is its ability to comment on social issues with comedy. It offers an interesting and unique look into post-9/11 American culture through one of its cast members. Ahmed Ahmed, an American of Egyptian decent and also one of the featured comedians on the tour, made light of the post-9/11 backlash against people of Arabic ethnicity. That way of describing it may not sound very funny, and some of the jokes are hit or miss, but I would not go so far as to say they are insensitive to Middle Easterners. In fact, what the comedy does is bring a very sensitive issue out into the forefront to an audience that may not be very concerned with, or aware of, the plight of our Arab neighbors.
Fellow comedian and cast member Bret Ernst also used his stand up to comment on a touchy social topic. With a quick and witty joke, Ernst denounced the belief that homosexuals choose their lifestyle with a reference to his older brother, who is gay. We later learn more about Ernst’s relationship with his older brother and his family, which is one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the film. This confidence with the camera and inside look at Ernst’s life is unexpected, but builds a great deal of trust between the film-goers and the comedians.
The idea of commenting on American culture is not new. Lewis Black, Jon Stewart anyone? What the Wild West Comedy Show does is manage to bring these ideas on the road to an audience that might not have been as interested in Stewart and Black’s comedy.
In life, sadness and laughter mingle like young lovers at a cocktail party. This is eerily apparent when, because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Vaughn has to reroute the tour.
“Because of the hurricane, we had to abandon three cities we were going to visit,” Vaughn says. “Having to bypass areas by going north and south made it a real challenge to get to the venues we did make it to.”
After Katrina had blown herself northward, the newly scheduled shows in Dallas, Birmingham and Little Rock became benefit performances, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Red Cross, according to the film’s production notes.
Other characters in the comedy troupe include: Justin Long, Vaughn’s “can’t dodge a wrench” co-star from “Dodgeball,” as well as Jon Favreau, Vaughn’s longtime friend and co-star in “Rudy” and “Swingers.”
Also on tour was John Caparulo, a Jim Norton look-alike, with similar self-deprecating comedy. Peter Billingsly, who you will remember as the “You’ll shoot your eye out kid,” from a Christmas Story, was there, along with a rising newcomer to the comedy circuit, Sebastian Maniscalco.
“It’s more than just a stand-up comedy concert tour,” Maniscalco said. “You also have a kind of human aspect. You kind of get to know each comedian and you get to see the cities in the eyes of the audience.” He was in town for the preview, and we talked briefly after the screening. You can hear more of my interview with Maniscalco online, along with a video review of the film.