Friday, Aug 1, 2014 01:45 am est

More drama than laughs in ‘Comedy’

Posted on November 13, 2012 | by Jaime Mishkin

Living in New York, one is probably familiar with somebody like Swanson, the aging hipster played by Tim Heidecker in the new film, “The Comedy.” He can be seen walking the streets of Williamsburg, frequenting bars while holding a Pabst Blue Ribbon, dressed in a polo shirt and cut-off shorts.

“The Comedy” is devoid of any traditional plot line, but that is precisely Swanson’s problem — he is, quite simply, lost. Writer and director Rick Alverson, who has previously directed other character studies like “The Builder” and “New Jerusalem,” asks questions about life and purpose in his films. “The Comedy” continues to ask such questions while depicting the life of a man who belongs to an archetype familiar to most New Yorkers.

At times the film can drag or feel directionless, but it does so deliberately. Just as the audience realizes no specific or momentous event is going to drive “The Comedy” forward, Swanson, too, is waiting just as eagerly for something to happen.

Alverson’s screenplay contains few lines of explicit emotion. Swanson’s conversation with his closest friends, who pass their time drinking and participating in recreational activities, is often hilarious but stilted, mocking and buried under heaps of sarcasm. Swanson simply cannot speak genuinely even among those he loves most, hiding behind different personas and facades.

But during the moments of silence that Alverson strategically incorporates between sections of dialogue — the awkward pauses and the shots of Swanson staring off into the distance — the audience can divine some meaning. It’s the emptiness in Swanson’s gaze and his desire for direction, feeling and human connection that leads the viewer to genuinely care for him, and, despite moments of frustration and annoyance, actually begin to sympathize with the character.

While Swanson struggles to make genuine connections with the people around him, Heidecker certainly succeeds in connecting with the audience. Best known for his comedic work with co-star Eric Wareheim on “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” he transitions brilliantly into his first dramatic role, catching audiences off-guard with a meaningful performance and a surprising ability to give depth to a seemingly superficial character.

“The Comedy” certainly delivers its fair share of jokes, but not as many as one might expect from a film that bears the name “Comedy.” The film is a drama disguised as comedy; there is a superficial layer of funny dialogue, but beneath that layer lies a quest for emotional connection and honest human feeling. The true comedy is not so much the spectacle of Swanson’s life as it is the comedy
of human existence.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 13 print edition. Jaime Mishkin is a staff writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com. 

Comments

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next