Film Reviews

THE BITTER BUDDHA

By • May 1st, 2013 •

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Eddie Pepitone is known as the “comedian’s comedian” with the likes of comedy stars like Sarah Silverman and Zach Galifianakis declaring their admiration for Pepitone’s unique style in a funny new documentary THE BITTER BUDDHA. In fact another colleague refers to him as the “Charles Bukowski” of stand-up in that Pepitone uses his own volatile mental states as fodder for material, letting the audience inside his tortured psyche in a way that ignites hysterical laughter. The film depicts the life of the iconoclast comic as he makes his way around the circuit, culminating with his triumphant headlining show at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York close to where he had his humble beginnings on Staten Island. The footage from this gig also shows the comic’s considerable acting skills, demonstrated by a legendary bit where he leaves the stage during the act, sits in the audience and heckles himself.

All of these comedic theatrics are peppered with witty punch lines and deftly captured by first-time film director Steven Feinartz. Feinartz shows remarkable skill balancing between Pepitone’s stand-up, lively animation sequences and real life fodder including his interaction with his cats, friends, wife, and his feeding of squirrels in the park. Feinartz seems to have almost discovered this secret gem of a comic talent, using his camera as a fly on the wall, following Pepitone on the comedy and podcast circuits and capturing what could be history in the making.

The film exploits natural story arcs including the comedian’s humorously tense relationship with his father who nearly refuses to go to Pepitone’s big show at the Gotham. In keeping with his “metacomedy” style, Pepitone laughs off the idea that some of the documentary’s viewers might think this plot point was merely “staged” for the camera. This moment helps develop the major theme of the film, namely the relationship between life and art, or suffering as a basis for material, a tendency missing from mainstream entertainment, or at least to the level that Pepitone seems to be willing to take it to. The film is available in theaters, on ITunes and other VOD outlets.

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