Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11 will waste no time in turning some viewers off. As one of the people interviewed mentions, even twenty years later is still too soon to joke about the attacks. Fittingly, the documentary begins with a series of 9/11 jokes from film, television, and stand up. It all makes sense in the grand scheme of the film, but will people stick around to watch it?
Documentaries about comedy can often be difficult to watch. The reason is that many comedians will talk about how they have an insight into life that allows them to see things in ways other people cannot. This is not just limited to times of tragedy, as listening to a comedian talk about themselves is only slightly less nonsensical than listening to a social media star talk about why they support a certain charity.
While there is some of that in Too Soon, it never ruins anything. On the contrary, it plays into the theme of the film. Interviews include Nathan Lane, David Cross, and Marc Maron, among many others. Though it is a wide ranging cast, there is a major similarity between all of them. Each had used humor to cope in the past, but none knew if it was appropriate this time. For some of them, they were incapable of finding anything to laugh about.
There is a humanity in the documentary that is felt the entire time. A mix of footage and interviews depicts what the country was going through and why comedians were having such trouble figuring out the situation. It is not just comedians who were unsure if it was okay to laugh, it was audiences that did not even know if they wanted to. This is very important as it puts viewers in a specific mindset. Too Soon is not about trying to find something to laugh at; it is about trying to laugh at all.
Too Soon covers many things that most documentaries about 9/11 cover. Rudy Guilani’s appearance on Saturday Night Light and Gilbert Gottfried’s routine at Hugh Hefner’s roast in which someone literally yelled, “Too soon!” are shown. What prevents things from getting stale are some interesting little known facts. This includes how right wing radio and television hounded Janeane Garafalo and a one man show that Scott Thompson feels his career has never recovered from.
The most poignant part of the film may come at the end when someone mentions that 9/11 jokes are prevalent in comedy today. This includes a montage that includes scenes from The Office and Arrested Development. Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11 comes around full circle and answers the question it poses at the beginning. People will never know if it is too soon until someone goes out and actually tries it.
Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11 comes to Vice TV September 8
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