Just For Laughs: James Mullinger to preview autobiographical film July 29
By Stuart Nulman
Several years ago, British born comic James Mullinger got together with his old school friend, film director Mark Murphy. At the time, they were known in the UK for their humourous film review show “Movie Kingdom”, and were compiling interviews with some of Mullinger’s favorite comedians for a web series that would be broadcast on Comedy Central.
During their conversation, Mullinger – who currently lives in Saint John, New Brunswick with his wife and children – remarked how after conducting those interviews with his comedy heroes, he had to catch a train to the north of England, so he could perform on stage at an open mic showcase in front of a small, sometimes unappreciative, crowd. And there were times after he performed these small club gigs, he would miss his train ride home, and would end up sleeping on train station platforms or on the street. Murphy suggested they write a screenplay based on his rough and tumble experiences on his quest to success as a stand-up comic.
“We originally called it ‘Don’t Give Up Your Day Job’, and Mark found my situation as a juxtaposition to what I went through in order to chase my dream of becoming a better stand-up comic,” said Mullinger, during a recent phone interview from his Saint John home. “We started writing the script, but then got sidetracked and put it aside. Several years later, we rewrote and broadened the script, and inserted more true life aspects to it. I still ended up sleeping on train station platforms, but his time I brought my own pillow and blanket, but it was an indication of how passionate I had become to live out my dream.”
The end result of this collaboration is “The Comedian’s Guide To Survival”, which will have an exclusive preview on July 29, 7 p.m., at the Cinema du Parc, as part of the Just For Laughs Film Series (the film’s official premiere will take place in London at the end of October). Mullinger and Murphy will be present at the screening, along with Montreal comedian Mike Ward, who is one of the many top comics who make cameo appearances in the film; a Q&A session will follow the screening.
One main decision regarding the making of “The Comedian’s Guide To Survival” was casting the lead role. Mullinger could have decided to portray himself in the film, but has happily chosen British actor James Buckley for the part, who is a major star in Britain, and starred in “The Inbetweeners”, which was a major box office hit in the UK (Mullinger does appear in the film, in a small role as Brad Macey, a rather vain, pompous British comedy star).
“As far as I’m concerned, I am an above average comedian and not an actor. I knew that if I did the lead role, I would have been terrible in it, because I cannot act and it would not have been a good idea to portray myself,” said Mullinger. “James Buckley is a huge talent. And what I liked about him is that he didn’t try to emulate me. He made the character his own and turned him into a sympathetic, believable person. When I saw his performance, especially when he did the stand-up sequences using my actual stand-up material, it was just amazing.”
Filming took place last summer over a period of six weeks – first for a week at last year’s Just For Laughs festival, and then in Britain for the remaining five weeks – in which during the Montreal shoot, Buckley’s character interviews some of his favorite comics, including Jimmy Carr, Gilbert Gottfried, Mike Wilmot, Brendan Burns, Mike Ward and Derek Seguin.
“Practically all of those interviews for the film were improvised. And because Buckley got some improvisation skills while working on a Judd Apatow film beforehand, he just didn’t stop improvising. As a result, we got some of the film’s funniest lines from those interview segments,” he said.
And Mullinger’s decision to have an exclusive preview of the film at Just For Laughs prior to its UK premiere is his way of expressing his gratitude to the festival for helping towards the success of the scenes they shot there last year.
“The festival has been so good to us, and there is no better place to come do, write, perform, produce and love comedy than at Just For Laughs. I adore this festival so much,” he said.
And a month prior to the film’s premiere, Mullinger has another project that will be premiered on CBC Television that he regards as a companion piece to “The Comedian’s Guide to Survival”: a documentary entitled “City on Fire”, which chronicles the events that led to Mullinger’s sold-out performance at the Harbour Station arena in Saint John, which is quite rare for a solo comedy show in that region.
“The documentary shows how organic the process was. The week of that show was quite nerve-wracking. I packed in a lot of gigs that week, including a fashion fundraiser at a high school, and club gigs to show the people of Saint John what I do,” he said. “I am very excited about this film, because it’s going to show people this organic process that they normally wouldn’t be able to witness.”
Along with “The Comedian’s Guide to Survival”, the Just For Laughs Film Series will also feature the following screenings: a special screening of the first-ever adult CG animated feature “Sausage Party” at the Imperial Theatre, in which the film’s producer-writer-star Seth Rogen will be in attendance (July 30, 8:30 p.m.); the world premiere of the documentary “Tickling Giants” about Bassem Youssef, the heart surgeon-turned popular satirical TV host, who was dubbed the “Egyptian John Stewart” (July 27, 9:15 p.m.); “Committed”, a documentary that tells the story of Vic Cohen and his doggedly determined 14-year quest to succeed as a stand-up comic, and Howie Mandel, the film’s producer, will be present at the screening (July 28, 9:15 p.m.); “Thank you Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon”, a celebration of Del Close, the Second City legend who influenced the careers of such comics as Bill Murray and Amy Poehler (July 30, 9:15 p.m.); and screenings of the popular international comedy shorts showcases Eat My Shorts (July 28, 7 p.m.) and its French language counterpart Tout Court (July 29, 9:15 p.m.). With the exception of “Sausage Party”, all of the above mentioned film screenings will take place at the Cinema du Parc.
For more information on these or any other Just For Laughs shows, go to their website at www.hahaha.com