I’m Dying Up Here
Season 1 Episode 1
This is a First Look Review of Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here starring Melissa Leo, Ari Graynor, Clarke Duke, Michael Angarano, RJ Cyler, Al Madrigal, Erik Griffin and Stephen Guarino.
It's all about the climb.
Ask anyone who’s had a chance to perform stand up and they’ll tell you it’s hard stuff. The work is daunting as you look into a crowd for the first time, not knowing if they’ll laugh at your jokes. Yes, it’s as much about the crowd as it is about your writing. But the jokes are the main reason for the audience’s attendance. It’s a parasitic relationship. With Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, younger viewers can be introduced to a world previously unknown to those who didn’t work in it. The 70’s were a boon for comedy; it’s a time period that spawned many greats like Richard Pryor and Steve Martin. Everyone was fighting for a chance to sit on the couch next to Johnny. A lot of it went down at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. That would solidify you as having made it.
The show is a slow burn, perfect for an hour long dramedy. After a short introduction into who should probably be the main character, creator David Flebotte pulls a fast one. The pilot then follows comedians of a local bar (NOT to be confused with the Comedy Store for legal purposes) run by Melissa Leo’s Goldie reeling with his death. Each person goes through their own struggles while working through the death. Ari Graynor wants to be taken seriously as a female comic. Clarke Duke and Michael Angarano want to make it big in Los Angeles. RJ Cyler just wants to get on stage at Goldies. Their motivations are clear, perhaps painted on to well, as they wonder in and out of scenes.
David Flebotte, who wrote the premiere, did somewhat of an admirable job introducing the characters. But it’s still tough to care about them. The season is young and this is a pilot but this episode introduced too many people to care about in too little of time. On top of main characters, viewers spent an unhealthy amount of time with supporting characters too. As much as Jon Daly and Alfred Molina are a treat, they’re given comparable screen time to the younger castmates. But Flebotte makes an overstuffed episode move along, slow pace or not.
That’s thanks in part to Jonathan Levine’s direction. It’s not flashy but it gets the job done. There are a lot of unique shots that help show the well dressed aesthetic of the 70’s setting. To that end, the episode (and probably the series) is fitted with a sepia tone soft filter. The screen is awash with the fuzziness of watching the show on a tube television. A brownish orange tint will stick out more than you’d like. And the film grain is heavy. It’s all a little jarring at first but you can get over it.
While the show is a drama, it’s a comedy based drama. It’s not sad in the sense that Atlanta or Louie can be. It gets close though. The characters cheer when Sebastian Stan’s Clay gets invited to Johnny Carson’s couch. They’re equally miserable when Goldie drops truth bombs on them. Quips like Erik Griffin’s “We’re cousins through rape” along with other jokes are nice additions. Laughs can be had in this drama.
Should you watch I’m Dying Up Here?
As much as this show has going for it, viewers in comedy will really find something to relate to here. There’s possibly too much going on for I’m Dying Up Here to satisfy all storylines but it’s a decent watch.