Comedians Don Barnhart And John Bizarre’s New Documentary “Finding The Funny” Explores The Topic - Can You Teach Someone To Be Funny?
A familiar face has found himself back in the movies. This time, actor and stand up comicis featured in a controversial documentary.
Finding The Funny, a new documentary directed by John Bizarre and stars award-winning comedian Don Barnhart. .The film explores the process of becoming a comedian and whether it must always be an organic and accidental affair or if one can actually teach a person to be funny.
The film follows a group of students taking Barnhart's comedy class in Las Vegas as they work on material, technique and style, all leading to a final showcase at the end of the six-week course.
Barnhart, a national headliner, got his start at The Comedy & Magic Club where he both managed and booked talent while pursuing his own stand up career. He has been teaching stand-up comedy in Las Vegas for the last 5 years.
“If you want to learn to play tennis you get a coach,” Barnhart said in a recent interview. “Comedy is the same. I’m not so sure you can teach someone to be funny but you can work on an individual’s technique and help develop his or her style. Even famous actors continue to study and hone their craft throughout their careers. And many great comedians have taken all kinds of classes to better themselves, so anyone who tells you that you shouldn’t work on your game has an ulterior motive.”
In addition to following the comedy class, the film features interviews with, , Marty Allen, Andy Kindler and many other comedians who share their thoughts on the arduous task of becoming a stand-up.
Director John Bizarre is also a stand-up who has made appearances on the Tonight Show and the Drew Carey Show as well as directing the documentary, We Love You, Ms. Bevins, a film that focuses on four comedians entertaining the troops on a tour through Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The whole idea of teaching stand-up gives me hives," John muttered during a break in the editing room. "But as we began shooting and fell into the rhythm of the class, I started to get it. But I still have these blasted hives. I need lotion."
“John and I first came up with the idea for the film after he was busting on me for teaching comedy," Barnhart recalls. "I told him to check out what I was doing before making any judgments and he said fine, as long as he could film it."
Keith Lyle is best known for having a small part in the award winning blockbuster, The Hangover. He participates as one of Barnhart's students in the film.
"I took the class because I needed some guidance in both my act and career," Keith recounts in a recent interview. "I felt like I was losing momentum and focus. Some will say that those things are part of the process. But, for myself, that negativity breeds contempt. It was time to take my act and comedy career more seriously. I saw it as an opportunity to learn from a world-class headliner that was crystal clear about HIS objectives teaching the class. For Don, it wasn't about money, it's about giving knowledge to those that love the same thing he does - making strangers laugh. And it worked. I have seen HUGE gains in both my act and my attitude. The class helped grow my passion into a hunger."
Since the filming wrapped, Lyle's stand up career has exploded. He has gone on the road as a feature act at several clubs. Lyle was also the top vote getter in the Improv Comedy Club's “Up Yours” online contest (www.improvcc.com). Ironically, Barnhart was 2nd in votes. Both are guaranteed a spot in the final performance for the $25,000 grand prize.
Barnhart says there are dues to be paid before you can legitimately wear the title of comedian. “Just because you got up on stage at an open mic or some coffee shop and whined about how difficult your Del Taco commercial was that morning…that doesn't make you a comedian. If your not getting paid, it’s just a hobby.”
“Comedy is not pretty. It’s very competitive and not everybody has what it takes to succeed," Barnhart says. "It's a cutthroat business and anything you can do to separate yourself from the rest of the pack is a plus. Besides creating material and performance techniques, I try to emphasize the importance of treating comedy like a business. As a comedian, booker and consultant, it amazes me what would-be comics send out. If you were applying for a job, you wouldn’t send a handwritten resume with no references. My classes are designed to help shave years off what can be a brutal odyssey of gathering experience from the road, and prepare you for a long term career.”
The comedians are currently on tour promoting the movie. Release date of the film is yet to be determined.