She Used To Laugh
Sep 18, 2023
Greg Berman, Anna Daines
It is highly unlikely, given that he released She Used To Laugh three years ago, that writer/director Greg Berman could have foreseen how his short film would become so urgently relevant in the face of today’s news. Even a week ago, when I first received the film to review, it could have been passed off as a simple toxic male tirade on a failed relationship, unleashed on an unsuspecting public who are asked to laugh along and sympathise with the storyteller, forced to come on-side with an aggressor and see his point of view as he trundles out his myopic narrative. But now, with the Russell Brand allegations coming to light, She Used To Laugh stands as a prescient warning, a wake-up call to easily led audiences, that if in fact a ‘comedian’ talks about how much of ‘a piece of s**t’ they are in relationships, then more than likely it’s probably true. Just think on Louis CK’s material.
So, at ten minutes long, we listen to Jay Schvartz’s (Berman) set at The Kibitz Room in LA, in one of those tiny underground cellars attached to a restaurant or deli business which American comics seem to love. He tells the story of his relationship with Veronica (Daines), which starts off nice and easy with the humour coming from their differences and miscommunications. Flashback scenes come up as Jay is talking and we, the viewer, are party to more of the actual truth of the situations which he is relaying to the audience. Gradually these situations become more intense, both on stage and in the flashbacks, and we begin to realise that Jay is not being entirely honest in his representation of the relationship; that he is in fact laying blame elsewhere instead of taking responsibility for it himself.
The way the flashbacks knit their way into the narrative as Jay delivers his set is extremely effective and very well handled by Berman and his cinematographer Nic Murphy. The silence of the scenes as Jay continues with his monologue is eerie and dramatic while also managing to uniquely portray the feeling of gaslighting when the audio and visuals don’t match up. Berman has crafted a very tight routine which is at turns funny and menacing and he delivers his lines with aplomb. The close-ups on his face and the fact that the camera never turns towards the audience is a very effective device which helps keep the gaze on the man in charge of the narrative without allowing the criticism or consternation of others to be exposed.
There is a video currently doing the rounds on social media of Katy Perry being interviewed on a red carpet while she was married to Russell Brand, who’s gurning and grinning his way alongside her. She finds it impossibly difficult to answer positively when questioned about how she deals with his errant behaviour and constant unpredictability. In the end, after several failed tries, she blurts out that, “No, he’s actually hilarious,” and that she’s usually like, “Oh My God, you’re so funny, I can’t believe it,” which when watching it feels exactly like it does watching She Used To Laugh, just that it’s coming from the other side of the scenario.
There has never really been any doubt that there’s a lot of darkness around on comedy circuits and a lot of dodgy comics who just like to air their grievances on stage. What stands She Used To Laugh out as being especially dark is just how close it is to the actual truth of real life. With the news only just catching on to this story and perhaps another #MeToo moment coming our way, it can only be hoped that more and more people will discover Greg Berman’s short film and will gain a vivid insight into what can be hidden behind the mask of a charismatic raconteur.