Tom Shkolnik’s first feature film The Comedian grips onto the darker side of the UK that is alive and well today—not the “Big Ben, Buckingham Palace”-type jazz you see in the mainstream: telling the story about a 32 year-old guy Ed (Edward Hogg) working at a call center who has absolutely no idea who he is—resulting in him manipulating some of the closest people in his life and making for a series of potholes along his road to self-discovery.
And because it only makes sense for the lonely and depressed to pursue comedy, Ed is actively doing standup in London’s underground scene. Except for he’s only slightly funny (like, barely!). After bombing at a local gig, he ends up meeting a guy on the bus who recognizes him from the venue. Nathan (Nathan Stewart) jokingly makes fun of Ed, asking him who ever told him they thought he was funny; and well, let’s just say the two’s “friendship” quickly grows into a more serious romantic relationship within that night.
The story wouldn’t be complete without the “other” in Ed’s life, Elisa: his singing guitar-playing flatmate whom he also has apparent feelings for, but still is deceptive in hiding his real relationship with Nathan. When the three go out and get drunk for the first time together, Ed is overcome by jealousy when he sees Elisa and Nathan playing around. He decides to leave them, where he then goes home alone. Why would he leave them, they wondered? This is just one example of Ed’s insecurities overcoming him.
Labels are loosely defined throughout; the characters never really reveal their sexuality directly. “The desire to define and the desire to remain undefinable[,]” is the way Shkolnik describes it in an interview with BFI. Only until one intense bus scene (shown in photo above) when some teenage girls call out Nathan for his gay demeanor and begin to harass him. This is a crucial moment in the film where one’s sexuality is being rejected by society, reemphasizing Ed’s fear of coming out to Elisa and his fear of committing to Nathan.
This movie is as real as it gets; it really flows together perfectly (the soundtrack is also accommodating), so I was surprised to hear that the actors worked with Shkolnik to improvise the entire script (apparently there was over 6 hours of footage!). You will grow to adore Ed (and get really mad at him at times) and Nathan (he is truly adorable and if I were Ed I’da fallen for him, too); you will cry for Elisa, question love and life—wonder why.
I was lucky to see The Comedian at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and I can honestly say it is my favorite thus far. It debuts May 31 in the UK, and I can only hope to see it appear in the US shortly thereafter.
Watch a clip of when Ed and Nathan first meet via Daily Motion.
(photo via BFI)