Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show holds the promise of being a highly entertaining look at an old-fashioned traveling festival, inspired by Buffalo Bill's shows, where young talented stand-up comics plied their trade across the country in September 2005. The picture becomes even grander, though—a generous and fascinating heartfelt examination of the makings of a comedian.
Although Vince Vaughn is the presiding spirit over the tour, he serves more as the impresario of the event. Helmer Ari Sandel, who directed the ingeniously funny comic short West Bank Story that parodied West Side Story within the Arab-Israeli conflict, gives us more than just an inside look of the tour, taking us deep within its dynamics. Part of that, of course, is Vaughn paying tribute to the many performers who have been a huge part of his career, including director/writer/actor Jon Favreau, actor Peter Billingsley and country singer/actor Dwight Yoakam.
But most of the picture is about novice comedians finding their footing on a nightly stage. Besides the distinctive styles of each performer, Sandel takes us inside the personal lives of each so we can see how it shapes their material. For instance, John Caparulo makes fun of the service industry, yet we learn that he makes his living waiting tables. Egyptian-American Ahmed Ahmed illustrates the frustrations of being an Arab in America by recalling a bitter story in which he was detained in a Las Vegas airport. Bret Ernst has some funny jokes about his gay brother, but they grow out of the bereavement of losing him to AIDS in 2001.
Since the tour takes place during the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, the performers also meet some of America's disenfranchised, whom they invite to the show for free. Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is a sweet and affecting tribute to the shrewd charms of the American road show.
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, Sebastian
Maniscalco, Peter Billingsley and Justin Long
Director: Ari Sandel
Producer: Vince Vaughn
Genre: Comedy documentary
Rating: R for pervasive language and some sex-related humor
Running time: 110 min.
Release date: February 8, 2008 ltd.
Reviewed: 2006 Toronto International Film Festival