Jerry Seinfeld clearly has something to prove. He's been laying low since his show went off the air, and now that his erstwhile partner Larry David is staking claim to his own creative importance with his hit HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, one can imagine that Jerry's itching to get back into the ring.
Comedian, Seinfeld's self-produced tour documentary, is the result and while it doesn't prove him to be an extraordinarily original comic talent, it does reveal him to be a hard-working, thoughtful and self-critical performer.
Despite his wealth and fame, Seinfeld finds that he wants to prove himself all over again, going back to the nuts and bolts of writing diligently and often, courting the audiences and grinding out his jokes in the humble clubs of America's flyover zone. Throughout, he is refreshingly humble, haunted by the thought that he doesn't deserve his stature. Appropriately enough, the film builds to a climax in which Seinfeld makes an appearance on Letterman, nervous as a newcomer making his debut.
In a brilliant counterpoint to Seinfeld's tour, the film also follows the fortunes of an ambitious young comic named Orny Adams, an embarrassingly hungry performer who is seething just below the surface of a breakthrough he can't quite achieve. His naked envy of Seinfeld's success is creepy to behold--he's a real-life version of the Jerry Lewis-obsessed character that De Niro played in The King of Comedy. While Adams certainly works hard and has some talent, he can't grasp a fundamental truth: The audience is there to be seduced and entertained, not beaten into submission.
In contrast, Seinfeld understands the audience's needs and desires and with this film, he gamely wades back into the conditional embrace of the people who helped elevate him into the stratosphere over a decade ago. --David Fellerath