Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show is stand-up’s answer to the concert movies that have been sweeping through theaters lately and taking with them mountains of unexpected cash. Vince’s pseudo-documentary follows him, four comedians, and a rotating cast of friends as they travel across the country in luxury RV’s and deliver comedy roundhouses to the big cities and small towns of middle America. Take that Hannah Montana!
It’s a simple formula, and the film is made mostly from footage of Vince and his gang doing their thing on stage. Occasionally the movie takes a break to set the scene, showing us a clip or two from inside one of the team’s crowded RVs or following around Vaughn’s comedian entourage as they visit their families and deliver free tickets to victims of hurricane Katrina. The film’s on the road footage is little more than a gimmick to tie the comedy together. Some of it works, some of it, like the Katrina footage, feels like it belongs in a different movie. It doesn’t matter. The jokes are the thing and when it comes to funny Wild West Comedy Show delivers.
The film starts out on their opening night in Hollywood, in which Vince introduces everything with a skit involving his Swingers buddy Jon Favreau and Apple pitch-man Justin Long playing a sad sack, downtrodden version of himself. Vince’s talent is more for improvisational sketches than stand-up comedy, and he shines brightest in the early stages of the film. The further they get from Hollywood, the more Vince fades into the movie’s background to let the real comedians take over.
All four of these comedians are supremely talented, brilliant performers, and Wild West’s best moments happen when they hop on stage and the cameras pull back out of the way to simply let them make you laugh. For me, it’s John Caparulo who came out as my favorite, but each stand-up brings something different to the table. You’ll never hear the same joke twice, and even if you did it’d be told in such a different way that you wouldn’t notice the repeat. Caparulo is the lovable shlub, who uses his flaws to find humor. Bret Ernst is a genius when it comes to physical comedy and kills with a bit in which he mimes being outclassed as a kid by a creepy, mustachioed 30-year-old dude at the skating rink. Ahmed Ahmed is of Egyptian descent and does a lot of Arab related jokes. Because he’s limited himself to making fun of his ethnicity he’s the weakest link of the group, which is saying something since he’s also probably the most well known and successful of the bunch. Sebastian Maniscalco is the shy kid from a poor family who talks man talk and nearly runs away with the movie by riffing on the simple horrors of shopping at Ross, which he accurately depicts as bearing a strange resemblance to Beirut.
Ultimately the whole thing works as well as it does because Vince has assembled a group of guys capable of delivering world class hilarity. Most of them you may have never even heard of before Wild West. Sebastian Maniscalco for instance was working as a waiter before Vaughn picked him up and put him on the tour bus. His goal he says is to finally make enough money doing comedy that he can quit his awful day job scrounging for tips. After thirty seconds of seeing him on stage, it’s obvious that won’t be a problem.
Wild West Comedy Show is less a movie than a concert, but it’s probably the best comedy concert you’ll see all year. For those of us who stubbornly refuse to follow the herd out to one of America’s coasts and are thus resigned to whatever’s leftover after the people of LA and New York finish getting their jollies, it’s unlikely you’ll see something like this live any time soon (unless you were in the audience back in 2005 when the tour came through), so why not head out to a movie theater. I had a great time at Vince’s Wild West Comedy Show, and I didn’t have to tip the waiter.