When one reads “TV show” and “stand-up comedy” in the same sentence, Seinfeld immediately comes to mind. The brilliant show was the first to bring the world of stand-up to living rooms around the world, and in the process became the most popular show on television. In fact, it was so popular that 76 million viewers tuned in to the series finale. In recent years, comedian Louis CK’s Louie has taken Seinfeld’s place (despite the humor being even more self-deprecating) and has become one of the best shows on TV season after season.
Given the popularity of stand-up comedy today, it’s no surprise that Showtime is releasing a new show, I’m Dying Up Here, chronicling the origins of the medium. The real surprise, however, is seeing Jim Carrey’s name in the credits. Carrey, who started his career doing stand-up, and whose last appearance on film was in the dreadful Dumb and Dumber To, is set to appear in Ana Lily Amirpour’s cannibal movie The Bad Batch later this year. In the meantime, he’ll be serving as the executive producer of I’m Dying Up Here.
Carrey has first hand knowledge of the stand-up comedy world, and recently told Deadline, “At that time there was a beam that could catapult people to the stars, and that was The Tonight Show. We all gathered around the heat of that.” It makes absolute sense that the show is set in The Tonight Show’s era, primarily because this was when stand-up broke the barrier and became “mainstream”, but also because it’s been a trendy time period for TV shows to be based in of late.
Last year saw the birth of HBO’s Vinyl (an underrated show that could have benefited from a second season), Netflix’s The Get Down, and Cinemax’s Quarry (a very solid thriller) all took place in the ‘70s. This year we’ll see more of that very same decade thanks to the arrival of David Simon’s The Deuce, a James Franco led series that examines New York’s porn business in the 1970s.
I’m Dying Up Here’s cinematography is respectful of the era’s technological limitations, and if the show is as good as it looks, we are in for a real treat. Casting wise, all the performances are guaranteed to be solid, with Melissa Leo (who famously dropped the “F bomb” when she won an Oscar for The Fighter) playing a comedy club owner and the aspiring comedians being played by Michael Angarano, Ari Graynor, Clark Duke and Erik Griffin (fan favorite Montez in Workaholics).
The show premieres on June 4, but if you’re in the mood for a close look into the world of stand-up comedy before then, and want to hear Jerry Seinfeld describe it as “a result of your ability to withstand self-torture,” then look no further than Dying Laughing to tide you over. The documentary will release in theaters and OnDemand February 24.
All these morbid titles may not sound like a barrel of laughs, but we know one thing for certain; misery loves comedy.
Watch I’m Dying Up Here’s trailer here.