Unless you’re a comedy nerd or have happened to stumble across his hilarious Twitter feed, you probably haven’t heard of Eddie Pepitone, which is too bad because he’s one of the best unsung comics working today. He’s what people might describe as a “comic’s comic” – everyone from Patton Oswalt to Sarah Silverman to Zach Galifianakis to, well, everyone in the LA comedy club scene bow down to his angry, offbeat sensibility (although maybe aren’t always quite so complimentary of his angry, offbeat personality). At age 54 however, true career success has eluded him for many years. As the stand-up comedy world and its followers begin to wake up to what Pepitone has to offer, his career gets an unexpected surge – The Bitter Buddha follows him as he gets ready to headline a show at Gotham Comedy Club in New York, a huge gig not only for his stand-up act but also as a chance to convince his ornery Staten Island-based Dad to make his first trip into Manhattan in seven years to see his son perform.
The Bitter Buddha is a beautifully executed portrait of the type of tortured comic we often see portrayed in movies (think, Mr Saturday Night or The King of Comedy) but don’t always get to see play out in real life, because who wants to lay their soul bare like that in front of a documentary camera when your job is to get up on stage and be the class clown night after night? Well, Eddie Pepitone is brave enough to allow Director Steven Feinartz to capture the extremely dark side of his personality that informs his fevered, caustic comedy – from his childhood with his mentally absent manic-depressive Mother, to his tortured current relationship with his churlish Dad, to his history of addiction and doubt in his own abilities as a funny man when all of his peers are getting high profile movie and TV roles. It’s a film about coming to grips with a lifetime of hard work that never yields the success you thought you’d have, which is what makes The Bitter Buddha so very relatable to anyone who’s ever had a dream that didn’t come true. That makes it all the more interesting when the film explores the fact that the actual reason it’s taken so long for Eddie’s career is to break is because it wasn’t until later in life that he found his own unique voice making him more a late bloomer than an underdog who just can’t catch a break. For a movie about an angry dude who likes to yell at pedestrians and LA drivers as much as he does his own audience, you wouldn’t think it would be possible to take away such an inspiring and oddly comforting message – we all have it within in us to achieve what we want to, for some it just takes a little (or a lot) longer to get there.
Is The Bitter Buddha Opening Day Worthy?
Considering it’s only screening at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema for two dates – March 2 and 3 – you’d definitely be missing out if you don’t get your butt down there to check this out…especially since the film’s subject, Eddie Pepitone, will be be doing a Skype Q&A after each of the screenings. Check out the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema’s website for more details.