In this hyper-intelligent comedy, a journeyman comedian (Henry Phillips) is lured to L.A. by a TV producer (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash) who wants to make him a reality star. As reality sets in, he must decide whether his legacy will be to tell jokes for a living or become the butt of them. With an all-star cast including Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, Jim Jefferies, Doug Stanhope, and more, PUNCHING HENRY is a hilarious and heartwarming glimpse behind the curtain at the weird world of comedy.
What We Thought:
I’m not super familiar with Henry Phillips so I’m not 100% sure how close Punching Henry is to his actual life, but even if it’s total fiction, it’s very relatable if you know the world of stand up comedy.
It reminded me of some stand up documentaries I’ve watched over the past few years and maybe even a little of Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk with Me. It’s the story of a comic who almost had a shot at the big time, but an incident crushed his dreams. He’s a singing comic who tours doing small shows and hates Los Angeles.
He gets an offer in LA and has to go back to the city of crushed dreams. J. K. Simmons’ character wants to do a show about his life, the incident and the outcome. Of course the studio wants to change it because that’s what studios do. That’s the part of the movie that stood out to me, that dynamic of being who you are compared to being who they want you to be.
The studio uses social media and view counts to judge what’s hot today. Talent and story is irrelevant. When Henry has a video go viral, he thinks it’s one of his songs. It’s actually his hair catching fire and falling down during a performance. The studio wants him to make an ass out of himself, he wants his dignity. It brings up all the questions creative people have. Do you sell out for the money? How long do you do it for before you give up on your dreams? Is dignity worth more than a paycheck?
A lot of stand ups make appearances. Sarah Silverman plays a radio show host. Tig Notaro plays Henry’s friend whose house he crashes at in LA. Jim Jefferies is his friend. Doug Stanhope plays a cab company owner. Plus there are others who show up and some funny people like Mike Judge as well.
Pushing Henry is a good watch if you are a creative person. If you are an actor, stand up, musician, artist, whatever, you can relate to Henry’s passion and question whether or not you should give in or give up. Life seems to beat him down quite often and that makes him brutally human.
Cast & Crew:
- Henry Phillips
- Sarah Silverman
- Tig Notaro
- Stephanie Allyne
- Mark Cohen
- Jim Jefferies
- J.K. Simmons
- Doug Stanhope
Recommended If You Like:
- I Am Comic
- I Am Road Comic
- Henry Phillips