Steve Martin, ’70s wild and crazy guy.
Variety is reporting that filmmaker RJ Cutler has acquired the rights to Richard Zoglin’s just-released book Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-Up in the 1970s Changed America. Cutler, who won an Academy Award for the campaign documentary The War Room, will produce with Sarah Timberman, but has not yet determined whether he will direct or not.
Cutler is hoping to tap into the plethora of archival footage Zoglin accumulated while working on his book, as well as his relationships with the comedians profiled. Cutler, who is looking to make the film “more than just a history lesson” said:
“We’re talking about a lot of things that would involve many of the key figures, as well as this storehouse of extraordinary footage that exists…Most of these figures are still alive today and have amazing stories to tell.”
The documentary will cover the same period as the book, from Lenny Bruce to Jerry Seinfeld, and all those in-between, such as Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and Andy Kaufman, as well as the rise of the comedy club. Zoglin, needless to say is on board with this, saying:
“Standup comedy has never gotten the attention it deserves as a cultural force and an American art form.”
He’s right. And the time period of the ’70s into the ’80s was kind of the last gasp of pure standup comedy, when that business was much like vaudeville, in that you were just working your act and hoping to ascend to better clubs, and best of all, a spot on Johnny Carson’s show, not really anything else. Now most people go into standup with an eye towards landing a TV series or launching a movie career.
The other important thing Cutler said in his above quote is that most of the people (most, not all) are still alive, so why not do what you can to get them together? So this is a great idea for a documentary, but I do hope Cutler keeps one thing in mind: make it funny, okay?