Review: Out of the Loop


Title: Out of the Loop
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Michael Alexander
Starring: Jeff Garlin, Hannibal Buress, Deon Cole
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins

What It Is: From the late 20th century on, Chicago harbored a comic and stand-up scene that helped launch the careers of many successful comedians we know today. This documentary features several of those comedians who lend stories of their experiences starting out in the scene, primarily around the 80s into the 2000s as they face issues such as bombing, racial tension, discrimination, and harassment in the midst of the chaos and potential the city had to offer, collectively creating a boom in the comedy and entertainment scene to make them what they are today. Much like a masterclass, these comedians offer their stories as snippets of inspiration and advice.

What We Think: In its content, this doc has a lot to offer, namely thanks to its wonderful and engrossing interviewees. Their supply of stories seems endless and is addicting to listen to as many of them, as performers, describe starting out as throwing themselves into something completely, whether or not it turns out good. So of course, a lot of what they have to say based on their experiences lends a lot of juicy entertainment, as well as often turns towards wise and inspiring anecdotes that would be helpful to anyone who is willing to interpret those messages personally. The whole endeavor is easy to watch, or multitask to, as it loosely follows one thread of conversation into the other, also making it a fine listen. Outside of the personalities, the documentary itself does have some technical and creative aspects I do take some issue with. While I could easily watch and listen to comedians talk about the odds and ends of their careers all day, the framing of their stories can stand to be more connected, sometimes it just felt the opposite and less of a guided interview and more of an open-ended discussion with themselves, which in other cases could work, but here just feels too informal and unstructured. Not to mention a lot of the edits and certain features felt very rough or even unnecessary, including dramatizations, scenes, interviews, and distractingly, strangely photoshopped inserts. To bring my point home: the doc has personality, but could definitely use some polish.

Our Grade: C+, A winning subject matter in an otherwise somewhat amateur-feeling documentary, Out of the Loop delivers enough of a variety of Chicago-based comics and their fascinating lives to hold your attention and help educate on the topic of American culture. The points and stories they bring to the table to reminisce are anywhere from admiring to hilarious, embarrassing to occasionally terrifying (the Damher story blew my mind). While I would have liked to have also heard more jokes from the archive footage, I think that also goes to show, to the credit to this film and its choices,  that this would easily be a topic worth more projects in the future, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a continuation and hearing more about these people and the ins and outs of their city and scene.

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