Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show

Cast:
Ahmed Ahmed as Himself
Peter Billingsley as Himself
John Caparulo as Himself
Bret Ernst as Himself
Justin Long as Himself
Sebastian Maniscalco as Himself
Keir O’Donnell as Himself
Vince Vaughn as Himself

Directed by Ari Sandel

Summary:
An amalgam of comedy concert and tour documentary, Vaughn’s ambitious dream project offers more than just a look at four budding stand-up comics, but a look at our country from a very unique perspective as well.

Story:
In 2005, actor Vince Vaughn took four stand-up comics on the road for a cross-country tour that hit 30 venues in 30 nights, starting in L.A. and going to some of the more remote areas of the South and Midwest. Along the way, they all learned more about themselves and each other as their plans were waylaid by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

Analysis:
Comedy concert movies have become sporadic alternatives to the scripted variety of comedy over the years, and often, they only work based on the previous fame of the comics involved.

“Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show” (which offers the even longer descriptive subtitle: “30 Days and 30 Nights – Hollywood to the Heartland”) is a daring attempt at introducing the country to four fairly unknown L.A.-based comics, brought on the road under the protective umbrella of actor Vince Vaughn. Rather than just playing the big cities where one’s guaranteed sold out venues, Vaughn takes them into the South and then up to the Midwest looking for places that don’t often get comedy tours. With reality shows like “Last Comic Standing” bringing stand-up comedy to the masses in areas that normally don’t get the cutting edge liberal humor of the coasts, it made some sense, but Vaughn turns it more into a touring variety show with the actor hosting and filling the time between comics with improv bits and musical numbers. It’s slightly unfortunate that the movie comes out so soon after Dane Cook’s HBO series “Tourgasm”, though this movie offers a lot more heart and emotion to counter-balance the testosterone-driven clowning around that’s usually found on tour.

The four comics on display presumably offer something for everyone, although coming from Vaughn’s circle of friends, there are certain similarities between their comic styles. Clearly the most experienced stand-up of the group is John “Cap” Caparulo, a stocky, loud-mouthed guy with shaved head who can win over the crowd or piss them off equally well, even as he uncharacteristically sips his Chardonnay. Jersey Boy Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco are the two ladies’ men, the latter offering the film’s “rags to riches” story since he had to take time off from his job as a waiter to do the tour. The two of them offer the raunchiest humor, while Ahmed Ahmed, the oldest of the group, uses his experience as an Arab man experiencing post-9/11 profiling as the crux of his act. It’s surprising that we don’t see very much of him off-stage until the last half hour where we learn more about his background and meet his family.

Rather than just showing the highlights of their various shows, we also see what they do off-stage while traveling, from the typical tour bus pranks to getting out to promote the shows and giving out free tickets. Over the course of the movie, we learn more about each of their backgrounds, meet their families, and it’s pretty amazing that the more you learn about them off-stage, the better you can appreciate their humor on-stage. That’s mainly what makes this film so effective, since you rarely get such a candid look at stand-up comics to counter their on-stage personas.

Considering how prominently Vaughn is featured in the ads, it’s somewhat annoying how little we see of him when he’s not performing. While it’s commendable that he’s shifted the focus to the lesser-known comics, those going to see the movie strictly for Vaughn will be disappointed that we don’t get as much insight into the actor when not “in character.” The movie doesn’t spend nearly as much time on Vaughn’s improv bits with special guests like Justin Long and Jon Favreau either, which is too bad since they’re some of the funniest bits, especially Long’s impression of Vaughn in “Swingers.” Most of the people seeing this movie would probably want to see more of them. The musical numbers featuring Dwight Yoakam and Vaughn’s hero Buck Owens—who sadly passed away since their performance together—are fun, but also short.

Despite the craziness of the tour and the amount of material, first-time filmmaker Ari Sandel does an impressive job turning it into a cohesive film with a strong narrative thread, as well as keeping it to a reasonable length that leaves you wanting to see more.

The Bottom Line:
Vaughn’s comedy variety tour was an ambitious project with worthy intentions and the movie does a good job capturing the spirit, even if it takes some time to warm up to the stand-up comics and understand the purpose of the film. Along the way, there’s plenty of fun, both on and off stage, allowing the film to work on the surface as a concert film, but also to get deeper into the inner workings of being a stand-up comic on tour.

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