By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Stand-up comedian Steve Byrne
(TV’s “Another Period”) makes his feature directorial and screenwriting debut with the new comedy "The Opening Act.”
The movie, which is co-produced by Vince Vaughn
(co-producer/ TV’s “F is For Family”) gives audiences an up close and personal glimpse into the often chaotic and unpredictable world of aspiring comedians.
The old saying that dying is easy and comedy is hard rings true for many comics trying to hit the spot. In “The Opening Act” Jimmy O. Yang (“Crazy Rich Asians” and TV’s “Silicon Valley”) knows the struggle is real.
Yang, stars as Will, a nerdy 20something who has wanted to be a comedian ever since he was a kid. He spent lots of time with his father watching TV comedy shows. Will’s idol is a comedian named Billy G (the always funny Cedric The Entertainer, TV’s “The Neighborhood” and “Woke”).
Unfortunately, Will works as an insurance claims adjuster and his boss Barry (a funny Bill Burr, TV’s “Breaking Bad” and “F is For Family”) is unbearably lame. Will wishes he could walk away from the job, but he needs the paycheck.
The one thing he looks forward to is Open Mike Night at the local comedy club. He would love to get his big break there, but the club has a policy that in order to get five minutes of stage time, you must bring two paying guests. Will has already brought in everyone he knows and doesn’t want to impose on them again.
Thankfully, his friend Quinn ( a crazy Ken Jeong, “Crazy Rich Asians”) who is a rising star at the Improv in Pennsylvania has been offered to open for a big-time comedian. So, Quinn calls Will to see if he would like to take his spot at the Improv that weekend while he’s away.
It’s a huge opportunity and could be the big break that Will has been looking for.
When Will agrees he tells his boss Barry (Burr) he’ll need the day off to go out town, but Barry denies his request. Will decides he has to take a stand and tells Barry he’s done. He quits.
It’s now sink or swim for Will.
When Will arrives at the Improv he’s introduced to the club manager Chip (Neal Brennan, “Capone”) who is a real piece of work. Will is also teamed with Chris (Alex Moffat, TV’s “SNL”), a comedian who is working his way through the comedy circuit. His fast and loose lifestyle of drinking, chasing women and carousing is not what Will is used to.
When the big night arrives, Will is instructed to be funny before introducing the comedians and make sure he’s off the stage when the red lights start flashing. The club DJ Ricky (Jermaine Fowler, “Judas and the Black Messiah”) can’t believe what he’s seeing.
Will bombs spectacularly on stage. He’s heckled and has no clue how to deal with it and he’s scared which is something the audience picks up right from the start.
Will wasn’t ready for primetime and it showed.
When Will and Chris are invited to do a radio talk show, it goes from bad to worse for him. Realizing that maybe comedy isn’t in the cards for him, Will contemplates getting another job until he meets Billy G and he invites him to lunch Billy G tells him how awful he was and explains that every comedian has bombed. The good ones get back on stage, learn from it and incorporate their pain and embarrassment into their act.
It’s sage advice for Will and after begging Chris for a second chance he begins to turn things around and gets more than a few laughs during his next shows. More importantly, he’s happy that he stuck with his dream and it pays off for him in the end.
“The Opening Act” is a comedy about comics and their hustle. The film really has almost as much drama as comedy, but it’s a nice balance and overall a lighthearted and fun romp.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.
Take A Look At This Trailer For "THE OPENING ACT"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.