Directed by: #StaceyStone
Stories of funny people and comedians are always tinged with pathos. It seems that behind the laughter is a need to find gratification in the applause of others and when that need goes unsatiated, internal reflection and even desperation can ensue. Short documentary film Jack, directed by Stacey Stone, follows the life of one hopeful comedian coming to terms with the reality of stand up comedy and his graceful acceptance of the shortcomings it reveals in him.
Jack Sundmacher is the aforementioned funny person. He's married (something which provides plenty of material for his sets), has a dog walking business (a willing canine practice audience), as well as a history of theatre acting. A fairly impressive list of achievements and yet a burning desire to make it as a professional comedian still burns within him.
Throughout the documentary the viewer observes the numerous ways in which delivering the perfect joke that receives the audience's acclamation makes Jack feel “whole” even for just a minute.
Reminiscent of a show like Curb Your Enthusiasm with trappings of a movie like Funny People, Jack is an earthy and heartfelt endeavour from the filmmaker. Much like Stone's other #documentaries (Gander: America's Hero Dog and Unaccountable) this feels razor sharp when it comes to honing in on the subject without ever becoming belligerent or bullying. Interviewer (and Producer) Diane Mellen rarely needs to inject herself into the piece, allowing Sundmacher to fully open up, be vulnerable, and reveal the truth he has for himself.
Eschewing the visual gimmicks of other documentaries has always been the style Stacey Stone has delivered. There is nothing flashy here, no animated segments to depict Jack's turmoil or slow zoom outs from a drone to reveal his inner isolation. The film does that far more subtly by letting the story of Jack to flourish, yes cinematically, but also organically.
Jack is a wonderful on screen presence. His shows seem authentic and full of control and skill when it comes to serving up the belly laughs. His self-deprecatory nature allows him to be immediately likeable which is handy for a short documentary. When we hear snippets of his heavy thoughts on life and death they T-bone the viewer who is left waiting for the punchline.
Thoughtful, introspective, and heartily funny, Stacey Stone's documentary Jack is a glorious exploration of the “funny person”. A front row seat into the complex attitudes and emotions of someone dedicated to making others laugh.