Friday, February 18, 2011

Spotlight on: “Punching the Clown”

Henry Phillips stands, and strums, at the center of "Punching the Clown."

So this comedian has a girlfriend. She’s beautiful, she’s funny, she’s smart, she has a great job. She’s a wonderful cook, she makes love like nobody’s business.

One morning she wakes up, and finds the comedian packing his suitcase. He throws his keys on the bed and heads for the door.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” she cries. “Don’t you love me any more?”

He snorts. “NO MATERIAL!” he snarls, and leaves.

Comedy usually stems from an inner sense that things are not all for the best in the world. A comedian is a person at odds with reality, raising objections and pointing out cognitive dissonance in ways that jar our sensibilities and, hopefully, make us laugh.

Henry Phillips knows this life so well that he crafted an impeccably funny screenplay about the comic’s life, and got it made. “Punching the Clown” is an odyssey endured by Henry (playing himself, in essence) as he treks to L.A. to try and get off the road and into some better-paying, higher-exposure gigs as a guitar-strumming, song-belting funnyman.

For those of us who have toiled on stage at comedy clubs, “Punching the Clown” is practically a documentary. Sleeping on relatives’ couches, working children’s parties, enduring insufferable “creative” meetings, blowing interviews, putting up with the success of annoying no-talent acts that zoom past you on the popularity meter, being mistaken for a Nazi – (OK, maybe not that last item) – it’s what every aspiring performer goes through . . . sometimes for the duration of his or her career.

“Punching the Clown” is vastly superior to any other evocation of the life simply because it’s made by people intimately familiar with its ups and down (confession: a very good friend and former co-performer of mine, the lovely and talented Wade Kelley, plays radio host Captain Chaotic). If you love to laugh, you’ll love it. If you’ve been around the comedy life, you’ll sigh with recognition. If you’re thinking about going on stage, this will convince you to forget about it and get a degree in civil engineering.

Henry takes the bad with the good, gig-wise, in "Punching the Clown."

ALERT: Star, writer, producer and composer Henry Phillips will be with us for a chat and Q & A with us after the screening!

Punching the Clown


Dir: Gregori Viens

Feature Film


91 min.

Presented at the First United Methodist Church

Friday, Feb. 18, at 9:15 p.m.

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