Image courtesy of impawards.com
The title leaves little confusion as to what the movie is about. Much like the tour itself, Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Night – Hollywood to the Heartland Tour is merely an opportunity for Vaughn to showcase some undiscovered talent whom he feels deserves the exposure. The movie is a nostalgic throwback to the heyday of comedy; it works best when dealing with the very real events that take place during the tour.
As the tour begins, the viewer shares the same wide-eyed wonderment as the four comedians preparing to go on the most profound, meaningful tour of their careers. The chance for them to spread their humor further than they thought they could reach is clearly an opportunity they meet with equal parts enthusiasm and apprehension. The four primaries (Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, and Sebastian Maniscalco) as well as Vaughn’s relative unknown friends at the time (Justin Long of Dodgeball and Keir O’Donnell of Wedding Crashers) harness that nervous energy to put on some truly great and distinctive performances.
The only common bond between all of the talent on the tour is that Vaughn clearly and specifically likes every individual. Beyond that it is almost surprising to see the troupe interact some amicably. Ahmed is an Egyptian dealing with newfound prejudice following 9/11, and his act, naturally, has to address the situations he now faces. Jokes are best when they ring true, but the viewer can see that Ahmed wishes he didn’t necessarily have to address race even if he is ultimately rewarded for it. Caparulo would be easily categorized a young Larry the Cable Guy. His set is crude, vulgar, and markedly funny. Being on stage is the one place where he shows the confidence he wishes he had all the time. Ernst is probably the most prototypical comedian as he takes his routine very seriously and is a traditionalist with a strong grasp on paying his dues. Like most in his fraternity he has faced much adversity throughout his short life. Maniscalco is somewhat of a silver spooner, and it shows in his actions and his persona, but never once does he act entitled. That becomes most apparent when we see that he has likely shown the most perseverance of the four and has been met with the least success, at least so far.
These character elements are introduced sporadically as the tour unfolds. The result is a surprisingly loving portrayal of the four talents as well as an emotional embracement of the comic lifestyle. Seeing the performers onstage is enjoyable, but the film is more potent when the audience is introduced to each comedian’s family and it offers us a better understanding of the comedian as an individual as well as the comedian as an archetype. The boys will be boys atmosphere throughout is amusing and (as a man) easy to relate to, but the best parts are when the guys let their guards down and expose their true personalities.
One particularly outstanding piece sees the guys go into a camp for Hurricane Katrina victims. They meet the task of handing out free tickets as a nuisance at first, but by the end they, as well as the audience, realize the effect their line of work can have on people. Vaughn himself gets choked up at the notion that comedy could shine light into an otherwise miserable situation.
That is the slight of hand that the film pulls with its audience. On the surface it seems like just another showcase of funny unknowns looking for their big break, but there is more depth to it than that. Vaughn could have easily opted to present the whole thing as a sort of greatest hits from the tour, and while many funny bits remain, the film offers much more than that. The people in this movie are very real, and it is nice to see that even for a brief glimpse. Come for the jokes, stay for the in depth character study.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):