February 14, 2008

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Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show (R)
Vince Vaughn wrangles four live comedians — Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Sebastian Maniscalco and Bret Ernst — onto a bus and occasionally gets some help from Peter Billingsley (Ralphie of A Christmas Story fame and now a behind-the-scenes show-biz guy), Justin Long and Keir o’Donnell (the artsy brother in Wedding Crashers) for a 30-day, 30-night field trip across America in 2005 in Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show.

The comedians here are practitioners of what might broadly be called “dude” humor with bits of social commentary (men and women; unreconstructed macho men and metrosexuals; America and Arabs) thrown in. Ahmed Ahmed (who grew up in southern California andwas born in Egypt) with his stories about life as an Arab-American post-9/11 is probably the brainiest in his humor. John Caparulo, with his funny cranky guy persona, is probably the dudest. Maniscalco and Ernst are somewhere in the middle with observations about guys at coffee bars and, from Ernst, touching and funny stories about his gay older brother (who died and who was a father figure to Ernst when he was a kid). Hearing Ernst and his mom talk about the way he uses these stories in his act helps to illustrate something that all the comedians say — from pain comes humor. (Ahmed develops a great bit from his arrest at the airport.)

The art of comedy — of dying or killing on stage — is only part of this rollicking road show. Vaughn clearly has a love of the road and of the “let’s put on a show” approach (or, at least, an appearance of that approach) to taking celebrity to the people. He uses his comedy show, which travels primarily across the bottom stretch of the country from Los Angeles to Chicago, as an excuse to get his friends on the bus and on stage and as an excuse to meet idols like Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam (with whom Vaughn sings on one of those 30 nights). He travels on the fringes of the destruction of the hurricanes of 2005 and even invites a few hurricane refugees to one of his shows. (This segment is both awkward and straightforwardly “here’s what happened.”)

Like the best movies or TV shows about comedy and comedians, Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show is fun to be around. Not every joke is a laugh riot and the jokes themselves are not wall-to-wall (in fact, we could probably do with seeing more of the comedians’ acts). But, like a boisterous slide show of your wackiest friend’s road trip, the movie pulls you in on the experience and leaves you wishing that, just a little bit, you could have been there. B

Rated R for pervasive language and some sex-related humor. Directed by Ari Sandel, Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show is an hour and 30 minutes long and is distributed by Picturehouse.