Comedy has come under heavy fire in recent years. The proliferation of shock and random comedy seems to have replaced wit and meaningful humorous social commentary. Meanwhile, many comedians’ today say they feel they have been limited by today’s standards. Funny Pains is a documentary that explores comedy and its long reaching effects.
The film by Jorgy Cruz follows comedienne Wendi Starling. Funny Pains follows Starling as she tries to make it big in stand up comedy. The film watches her balance all aspects of her life in one of comedy’s most tumultuous times. At the same time it explores abuse, sexuality, and the changes seen in today’s society and its effects on comedy.
Interviews are a common part of most documentaries. They do not always add to the film, however. That is not the case with Funny Pains as Cruz is able to line up interviews with Jim Norton, Nikki Glaser, and Krystyna Hutchinson among others. Each comedian is more than just a talking head. There is years of knowledge and experiences with what they are saying. It gives the audience an insight into the business.
The star of the documentary is Starling. Her attempt to break into comedy is the focus. During the course of her attempts, the audience learns about Starling. These moments are the highlight of Funny Pains. The film opens with Starling giving a recap of her life. It is an intimate look that clues in anyone watching this is going to be about more than comedy. Starling is incredibly open about her struggles. She has an underdog quality that is easy to get behind. Her comedy is also very relatable and makes things more enjoyable.
Funny Pains (2020) Official Trailer from Passion River Films on Vimeo.
Location is very important in Funny Pains. The documentary is essentially a love letter to New York City at times. Many of the people interviewed compared NYC to other parts of the country. There is a lot of discussion about the differences, but the impact is lessened since no footage outside of New York is shown. Some examples of the differences discussed would have made things more meaningful.
The most powerful moments are when Starling intertwines her personal life with her comedy. For some, these parts will be hard to watch. Starling turns a painful moment in her life into a comedy bit. This leads into a discussion about what people are willing to laugh at and how different places will look at the same joke. Listening to Starling explain her reasoning for the bit is interesting. Some will definitely be turned off by what she has to say, which leads into a long discussion about what is acceptable.
Funny Pains is an interesting look at comedy. Director Jorgy Cruz does not just leave it at that, however. His film also explores what it takes to make it in the business and how it can affect a person. Wendi Starling is the perfect subject. She has the passion and talent to succeed. On top of that, she is very funny. The documentary asks a lot about comedy while examining people.
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