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The comedy documentary Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show isn't all that wild, and the comedy is sporadic. When it's funny, you may nearly fall out of your seat with laughter. But the movie is about 15 minutes too long -- at least -- and by the end you would like the funny guys to get their butts home so you can do the same. If you're planning to see this movie because you're a huge Vince Vaughn fan, bear in mind that he's not the center of this film, and you'll have to watch a quartet of stand-up comedians at length just to enjoy your favorite actor.
In 2005, Vaughn organized a tour of stand-up comedians and sketch comedy, from Los Angeles through Texas and into Georgia, then veering north to Nashville and ending in Chicago. The "Wild West Comedy Show" consisted primarily of four up-and-coming comedians, plus funny sketches involving Vaughn and any fellow actors or friends he could drag along for the ride. Vaughn's scheme is to bring a raunchy-guy humor to places that he believes are lacking in that type of show, primarily in the South and Midwest.
The movie cuts between clips from the Wild West Comedy Show performances, primarily stand-up from the four comedians, day-to-day interaction between all the guys on the tour (and they are all guys; the only females in this movie are audience members or moms), and some short profiles of the four comedians. John "Cap" Caparulo specializes in blue-collar humor heavily spiked with four-letter words; Bret Ernst incorporates frenetic physical humor in his stories about the gender divide; Sebastian Maniscalo has the whole metrosexual routine covered, but also veers into tough-guy jokes; and Ahmed Ahmed focuses his routine around the problems of being of Middle Eastern descent while living in America.
We get to see the difficulties the four guys encounter as they try to succeed as comedians -- not just the daily trials of coming back from a failed joke about flip-flops, or dealing with hecklers, but longer-term career struggles. Sebastian has a day job as a waiter that he fears he'll have to do again when he gets back to Los Angeles. "Cap" finds a group of hot chicks who are interested in him, but this happens in his hometown in Cincinnati on a night when he has to go see his parents. Ahmed was arrested a year before the tour in the Las Vegas airport for no reason he can determine, other than that he was a guy named Ahmed in an airport post 9/11.
The "guest appearances" provide some of the funniest moments of the film. I liked seeing producer Peter Billingsley, who looks much different (and cuter) than in his child-actor days -- you probably remember him as Ralphie in A Christmas Story. He once starred in an after-school special about steroid use in which young Vaughn played his best friend. The two guys hilariously re-enact a dramatic scene from the TV movie onstage. In addition, Jon Favreau appears onstage in some of the California gigs, and I liked the scene involving him and actor Justin Long. Actor Keir O'Donnell also appears throughout the tour, reprising a creepy part of his role in Wedding Crashers.
The Birmingham scenes are notable -- the guys are bitching in the car about their hotel accommodations while on the way to a camp full of Katrina evacuees, but on the way back, after seeing now-homeless families camped out in tents and small trailers, they're far more subdued. Birmingham is also interesting because it's supposed to be a "clean show" (sadly, they never explain why) and Cap is a little nervous about the fact that he can't use his more colorful expletives in his routine.
After the tour buses leave Birmingham, the rest of the movie falls fairly flat, mainly because it returns to the same old road-trip shtick. A second round of profiles of the comedians feels unnecessary. Maybe it would have been better if the movie were less linear in structure, so Birmingham could have occurred closer to the end of the film and the overall pacing could have been more consistent. Or maybe if the film had focused on only a few stops on the tour. A little animated map graphic appears throughout the film to show us every single stop on the tour, even if we don't see any footage from that town. Do we really need to see the map of all 30 stops?
The performance footage is pretty funny, and the comedians are different enough that you should be able to find one you like. But we've seen a number of comedian-focused documentaries in the past few years: The Comedians of Comedy, Patriot Act, Mr. Warmth, and they all seem curiously similar in structure. Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show has some laughs in store for you, but nothing else especially original or different.