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The Comedian's Guide To Survival Review

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James Mullinger (James Buckley) is an unhappy magazine journalist by day and an unsuccessful open mic comic by night. After a particularly disastrous gig goes viral, he’s ready to quit until his boss (Paul Kaye) sends him to interview some of the world’s biggest comedians and – possibly – get some career-saving advice.

★★★★

Concocting a comedy film from the actual mechanics of stand up doesn't need to be an utterly thankless creative endeavour – Funny People and Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian documentary proved that – but this British clunker may just cut the mic on the entire subgenre. To be frank, it makes Sex Lives Of The Potato Men look like The Apartment.

The spark of a decent idea is still just about visible amid the wreckage. Based on the life story of James Mullinger (played here by James Buckley), it starts as a look at the daily humiliations that come from Mullinger’s double life as a writer who moonlights as a struggling gag-slinger. There are possibly decent laughs to be wrung from the grim existence of the open spot comic, but writer-director Mark Murphy is either incapable of delivering them or unwilling to take the film in this quieter, more nuanced direction. And why bother when there’s pure gold to be mined from Mullinger suffering onstage incontinence multiple times?

It makes Sex Lives Of The Potato Men look like The Apartment.

The plot instead turns on an improbable decision taken by Mullinger’s sadistic boss (Paul Kaye) to send him to interview some of the world’s biggest comics and, perhaps inadvertently, unlock the key to his stuttering second-career. And it’s here that we perhaps see how this thing made it to screen. Through calling in favours – or knowing where a whole load of figurative bodies are buried – Mullinger and Murphy have managed to convince some impressive performers to appear either as themselves (Omid Djalili, Gilbert Gottfried) or in mildly diverting cameos (Kevin Eldon toils admirably as a blabbermouth limo driver).

But half-interested famous faces can only do so much. Actual material mostly gives way to sweary shouting, Mullinger’s supposed moment of triumph is utterly charmless and the whole thing just stumbles punchdrunk from one gross-out movie cliché to another until the credits roll.

Puerile, inept and almost fascinatingly unfunny, this regrettable low-budget effort completely squanders a fertile premise and some big-name guest appearances. As explorations of bad comedy go, it’s unwittingly authentic.

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