Film FestivalsMovie ReviewsSXSW 2019: It Started As a Joke Review

Keith NoakesMarch 16, 2019

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s SXSW Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

Synopsis: IT STARTED AS A JOKE is a feature documentary that chronicles the decade-long run of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival – including a final farewell show. The film celebrates Eugene’s unique brand of humor and his role in the alternative comedy movement, offers a bittersweet goodbye to an era, and reminds us of the healing properties of comedy – even in the most challenging of life’s circumstances. (IMDB)

Starring: Eugene Mirman

Directors: Julie Smith Clem and Ken Druckerman

Rating: n/a

Running Time: 75mins

Trailer: n/a

Most viewers have more than likely not heard of Eugene Mirman but little do they know of the impact he had on the Brooklyn alternative comedy scene as well as on the careers of many of today’s biggest comics. It Started As a Joke follows Mirman around while preparing for the final edition of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. Meanwhile, we would learn more about how he started from humble beginnings to creating a long-running comedy festival for 10 years, starting as a joke as the film’s title implies.

The documentary would feature plenty of interviews with many funny people including Michael Ian Black, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Ira Glass, John Hodgman, Kumail Nanjiani, Reggie Watts and Michael Showalter and also plenty of stand up sets from Janeane Garofalo, Jim Gaffigan, Jon Glaser, Mike Birbiglia, and Bobcat Goldthwait just to name a few. Being a comedian after all, Mirman’s story was hilarious but it would also be very sad as his tough personal life would find it’s way into his sets as he would use to comedy to cope with what was happening. Another big take-away for this film was also the sense of community on display. The scene was not nearly as competitive as it seemed. All the comedians were just one big family.

It only makes sense that a documentary about comedians and comedy would be funny and it was. With a running time of 75 minutes, the film is relatively short so it’s an easy watch but it’s only fair to want more. Though the style of comedy and the standup sets featured here may not be for everyone, it is all subjective anyway.

Overall, It Started As a Joke is a great little documentary about pursuing your passion with plenty of laughs and plenty of heart. The sheer number of funny people on display was quite impressive and the sense of community on display was compelling to watch. It may be on the short side and the humor may not be for everyone but its it’s definitely a fun time to be had.

Score: 8/10

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