SXSW 2019: It Started As A Joke

Eugene Mirman in It Started As A Joke. Photo Credit: David Andrako

It Started As A Joke celebrates the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival as well as offering some insight into the life of comedian Eugene Mirman.

The Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival started in 2008 as a joke.  It came to be as Mirman, Julie Smith Clem, and Mike Birbiglia were drinking one night.  What’s funny is that the festival was originally supposed to be a one-off.  Nobody could possibly foresee what would become of it.  Next thing you know, the festival is still running strong some four to five years into the run.  At some point, Mirman makes to decision to set an end date at ten years.  After all, seven seasons serve as a great end point for a sitcom.  Hey, ten festivals and a movie isn’t bad either!

Mirman and company would base the show in New York and this means having a large number of comedians at their disposal.  Granted they weren’t as famous back then.  While YouTube was around back then, it wasn’t the colossal power that it is today.  The same with social media.  Twitter wouldn’t even start to blow up until at least 2009 or 2010.

As far as the comedy goes, there is a who’s who of comedy here!  Mirman is a big name in the alternative comedy because he came first.  We wouldn’t have an alternative comedy scene without him.  For some background on alternative comedy, this basically means performing anywhere that’s not a comedy club.  It could include the back of comic book store, for example.  Most of your favorite comedians have likely performed in an alternative comedy setting.  It would not surprise me.  Not at all.

There’s a few performances in the film but it’s mostly full of interviews that serve as a retrospective on the festival.  It also serves as a profile on Eugene Mirman the comedian as well.  This should go without saying.  Because Eugene’s wife, Katie, was diagnosed with cancer, the film serves as a way for son Ollie to remember her.  Let it be noted that I’m pushing for Katie to beat that awful disease.  The three of them no longer live in New York.  Instead, they’ve since relocated to Massachusetts.  Sure, Eugene is still able to work but it’s a much different atmosphere.

For the comedy fans out there, this is going to be a must-watch film.  Chances are some of your favorite comedians are in here so that’s a reason to come along for the ride.  Hell, we’ve got some of the biggest names in the industry in one film!  For what it’s worth, many of them are more famous today!

Even though It Started As A Joke, there is still a lot of fun to be had.

DIRECTORS:  Julie Smith Clem, Ken Druckerman
FEATURING:  Eugene Mirman, Elina Baker, H. Jon Benjamin, Mike Birbiglia, Michael Ian Black, Wyatt Cenac, Michael Che, Bridget Everett, Jo Firestone, Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Gethard, Jon Glaser, Ira Glass, Bobcat Goldthwait, Gary Gulman, John Hodgman, Janelle James, Daniel Kitson, Aparna Nancherla, Kumail Nanjiani, John Oliver, Kristen Schaal, Michael Showalter, Sarah Vowell, Reggie Watts

It Started As A Joke holds its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Spotlight program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.