Accessing stand-up comedy is as easy as ever. Going to comedy clubs and venues to enjoy (or endure) some stand up is still common, and it’s even easier to find your favourite comedian, and their most recent set, on YouTube. What isn’t easy is actually developing a stand-up routine and going through with it. In Delivery, director Mark Myers shows exactly how hard it is. Mark and his friends decide to venture into the world of stand-up comedy to try something new, even though he is about to have his first child.
Toronto Film Scene recently sat down with Mark Myers, director, producer and star of Delivery, to discuss the film, his love of comedy, his favourite comedians and how he thinks this experience changed him.
Delivery is director Mark Myer’s first full-length feature film. He worked at MuchMusic for several years, producing several TV specials including Much Spring Break 10 and the series disBand. With Delivery, Mark flexes his directing muscles by telling the story of him and his group of friends, their personal lives and their journey to the stage. One of the film’s greatest strengths is that it is innately Canadian but doesn’t spend all its time pointing it out, which is sometimes a challenge to avoid. Mark says this wasn’t a conscious effort but that “it was just natural because this is the city I worked and grew up in. I went to school at the University of Toronto, and I worked at MuchMusic, and used the YukYuk’s that was down the street”.
The film includes interviews with a dozen or so comedians that range from Russell Peters to David Alan Grier. It’s an interesting aspect that gives the documentary an added perspective; the comedians offer their humorous and important advice on comedy, helping manage the narrative of these four amateurs. Getting these comedians to share their advice was harder than Myers had anticipated “It was very hard. I thought it was going to be difficult but it was really hard. We lucked out as a crew because we went to Just For Laughs, obtained press passes, and as you saw, we went to the festival. I knew there would be a ton of comedians there and was lucky enough to get the ones that I did but yeah, it was hard.” Myers knew who he wanted and got all of them – almost… “I had a feeling I wouldn’t get Jerry (Seinfeld) but deep down inside I knew I had to be persistent. So even though I knew it was unlikely to get him, I tried. I made a video and sent it to his management and I even wrote Louis CK a letter and gave it to him! Maybe I looked a little crazy but whatever.”
While getting the comedians he wanted to appear in his movie was difficult, nothing really prepared Mark and has friends for how difficult, scary and nerve-racking performing was going to be. We follow their journey to the stage for the better part of the documentary and see them attend comedy classes, work on their routines and then, finally, arrive at YukYuk’s Comedy Club in downtown Toronto. “It’s hard to quantify how nervous I was but I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It was crippling. I’m just uncomfortable making a phone call but I tried to remind myself that you just have to dial the number and then it’s over. Once your legs start moving towards the stage, there’s no way out. I was ready to run off the stage but obviously couldn’t.” Myers’ set goes over well for the most part, even though he blanks out and flubs some of his lines. When asked if he has done stand up since he says “Watching people bomb makes me want to do it again, but no I haven’t. You feel like you’re more comfortable after it happens and that there’s more of a probability you will kill the next time but I haven’t done it again. I want to do it again and come up with good, smart, clean material. We went really silly. You want to make people laugh so you go with what works, like swearing, but as a crutch.”
In addition to all of that, Delivery also tells the personal lives of the four friends. It’s Myer’s storyline that is really affecting; he and his wife are expecting their first child – so, naturally, it’s as good a time as ever to make your first movie. While it could have been a distraction, it was more of a learning experience for Myers. “In the end it only helped. You never know what you’re going to get. I was hoping my storyline would show some emotion and make someone feel something. So making the movie was a distraction, sure, but it was only helpful. Seeing the story with Shawn’s dad was cathartic. With his storyline and my own, I was able to learn a lot – comedians say you have to do stand-up a million times before you finally sort of get it and the same applies to becoming a parent; having a baby doesn’t make you a good dad, it’s everything that comes after”
Delivery opens Friday, September 26, 2014 at Carlton Cinema. Check their website for more information.