The Jim Carrey-produced series about stand-up comics trying to navigate LA’s 70s comedy scene shows us the tragedy and darkness behind the jokes.
“All funny guys are damaged” is a direct quote from the series that truly explores what happens behind closed doors in the world of stand-up comedy in its 70s prime. Produced by iconic funny guy Jim Carrey and inspired by the novel of the same name, I’m Dying Up Here premiered on Showtime last month. The plot follows the young hopeful comics who regularly perform at a comedy club with connections, “Goldie’s” on the Sunset Strip in LA. Season 1 Episode 1 opens with the accidental death of Clay Appuzzo (played by Sebastian Stan) who started out at Goldie’s and gained fame after appearing on The Tonight Show, a goal for comics at the time. Clay’s death sets the stage for an exploration of the complex, and often toxic, relationship Goldie, the ring leader of the club, has with her comedians. Conversely, we see how Clay’s death has affected each character individually, their relationships with each other, and what it all means for their future in the world of comedy.
One of the most enthralling aspects of the show is its ability to blend its light, comedic overtones with dark and deep truths. It is very hard and easy to understand that comedians are often the most broken and damaged people, and this is a series that honestly explores that. Each character faces their own personal struggles, whether it be an addiction to drugs, insecurities, or family problems, and comedy serves as their only escape, or in some cases, defense mechanism. When tensions rise between characters, they turn to witty jokes and comebacks to fight their battles, proving that comedy is their shield both on and off Goldie’s stage.
The character of Goldie (Melissa Leo) is an interesting one to dissect, as she is portrayed as one of the most powerful women in the world of LA comedy, yet she never truly preaches what she practices. Her reoccurring conflict with female comic Cassie (Ari Graynor) is on the basis of a very anti-feminist view of women in the comedy industry. Cassie spends most of Season 1 trying to be “one of the boys” and Goldie makes it a point to bring her back down to the realm of “ladylike” humor.
Aside from the multifaceted plot and brilliantly raw performances by the cast, I’m Dying Up Here‘s visual elements are very easy on the eyes. Set in the 1970s with California flare, the costumes and set designs on the show are flawlessly done. It’s a perfect mix of earthy desert tones and retro expressionism. Solid, muted colors and classic 70s geometry make up most of the set pieces and design, creating an incredibly aesthetically appealing viewer experience.
While shows like Shameless, Ray Donavan, and Twin Peaks: The Return seem to dominate Showtime at the moment, this gem of a series is not to be overlooked.
Be sure to catch I’m Dying Up Here on Showtime, Sundays at 10pm.