COMEDY: Following two characters on the fringes of New York City's stand up circuit, Hysterical depicts personalities who may very well be more peculiar than their acts.
Melita Zajc
Melita Zajc is a media anthropologist and philosopher. Regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: July 7, 2019

We live in interesting times. The rebellion, traditionally associated with the political left, has been taken over by the new populist right. The left, in order to defend the ideas of social justice, rule of law, or to respond to the problems of global warming, is introducing ever-new rules, procedures, and limits. The right-wing populists are the ones who dare to speak up and challenge established structures, be it the media, European bureaucracy, or the deep state. Disregard for social norms is sold out as courageous transgression, so one can, for example, insult a person claiming their right to do so in the name of «freedom of speech». But what if this happens in the context of comedy? If, at open mic nights, a person walks in, takes the microphone, and «delivers pure filth. Not filthy jokes, just filth»?

30 Rock

Hysterical is a documentary about two former stand-up comedians, Gary Marinoff and Alan Shain, made by two former stand-up comedians, Paul Higbie and Seth Pompi. It is not autobiographical, but the symmetry is evident. As the directors put it in a radio show shortly after the film’s premiere, «The way we started, we were the same as them. We were just two guys at an open mic, Gary even had a status over us, at least he was an extra in 30 Rock.»

As a fine example of independent cinema, it makes visible what would otherwise remain hidden to the outsiders’ eye.

30 Rock was an American satirical television sitcom created by Tina Fey that ran on NBC from 2006 to 2013. It took place behind the scenes of a fictional live sketch comedy show depicted as airing on NBC. The series’ name refers to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, the address of the NBC Studios. Initially designed as a sitcom about cable news, it uses surreal humor to parody the complex corporate structure of NBC, the oldest major broadcast network in the United States. NBC and other major film and broadcasting studios have survived a series of new technological advancements that have brought video closer to aspiring authors, from cable to satellite technology to VHS tapes to digital media to Netflix. They did so by, among other ways, integrating these authors and their aspirations into their programs. Thus, one of the films’ heroes, Gary Marinoff, does not only talk about the prospects of working with Tina Fey again, when he decides to actually do something to get a job, he distributes …

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