Movie Review: “All Joking Aside”

Young woman wants to make it as a stand-up comic, stalks her geezer heckler, “a comedy urban legend” until he agrees to coach her.

We all know where “All Joking Aside” is going, basically by the time the opening credits end. But those credits, underscored with a collage of comic bits, have a point that I’ll come back to — this joke.

“NOBODY wants to be a stand-up. We all wanted to be actors. But crunches are HARD!”

So watching and listening to 20something Canadian actress Raylene Harewood struggle and “get better,” as the stand-up film formula ordains, one can be forgiven for getting stuck on that opening credits zinger delivered by a comic whose face we don’t see.

She’s lovely. She’s done the crunches. She gets more comfortable on the stage, the script’s “material” improves, and she’s still not funny.

So why would she want to play a comic?

This Canadian production doesn’t differ from any other movie about the struggle to be a stand-up, from “Punch Line” on down the line. So let’s pass along the best of the sage profundities served up by the “washed-up” alcoholic comic, ably played by veteran character actor Brian Markinson, who had the good sense to never do a “set.”

“Look girl, there are two types of people in this world — funny people and happy people. You cannot be both. Do yourself a favor and go try to be happy.”

“A comic is judged every twelve seconds of his life.”

And “Bob,” the legendary comic who never got a sitcom, who supposedly managed 1000 sets, all different, in one epic year on the road, opens “All Joking Aside” with the best single-sentence review the picture could hope for.

“I’ve seen this movie a dozen times, sweetheart.”

Harewood’s a good actress, and gives a little weight to the “problems” Charlie, her character, deals with, that “personal s—” she’s supposed to “work out on the stage.”

But she’s not funny. Her delivery is all rounded locutions, prissy posh Kerry Washingtonish, not exaggerated enough to be Drew Barrymore funny.

Not that we’d see either of them as stand-ups. Because they’ve done the crunches.

“All Joking Aside” isn’t awful and Harewood isn’t its lone shortcoming. The script is too thin to hold our interest. Stand-up is so over-covered as film subject matter that the only way it can work in a movie these days is as backdrop for a more interesting story in the foreground.

Jenny Slate’s “Obvious Child” comes to mind. She’s funny, a convincing stand-up, but that’s not what has to carry the movie.

Not saying that this movie needed an unwanted pregnancy story, with stand-up as its subtext. But all joking aside, that would’ve been funnier.

MPA Rating: unrated, profanity, smoking.

Cast: Raylene Harewood, Brian Markinson, Dave “Squatch” Ward, Katrina Reynolds

Credits: Directed by Shannon Kohli, script by James Pickering. A Quiver release.

Running time: 1:23

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