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With: Jemaine Clement, Elliott Gould, Ingrid Michaelson, Maria Dizzia, Priscilla Lopez, Joey Slotnick, Willie C. Carpenter, Le Clanché du Rand, Rosemary Prinz, Annie Potts, Erich Bergen, Bebe Neuwirth, Cade Lappin, Ray Iannicelli, Mike Hodge, Malachy McCourt, Tibor Feldman
Written by: Sam Hoffman
Directed by: Sam Hoffman
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 93
Date: 01/12/2018

Humor Me (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Going for Joke

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

There are no end of movies about male sad-sacks who are stuck in a rut, but this one, though predictable, is mildly funny and warmly likable, thanks to its fine casting and sympathetic performances.

In Humor Me, playwright Nate Kroll (Jemaine Clement) has been struggling for four years to follow up his last play. His wife (Maria Dizzia) suddenly leaves him, taking their son Gabe (Cade Lappin) to live with a billionaire in France. With little choice left, Nate moves in with his joke-telling father Bob (Elliott Gould) in a retirement community.

After several unproductive days, Bob tries to get Nate a job, and he winds up directing the community's production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. During rehearsals, he meets the lovely young piano player Allison (Ingrid Michaelson), and despite some small dramas among his actresses and some of the other residents, he begins to find a new lease on life. He even begins to learn why his relationship with his father has deteriorated.

Written and directed by Sam Hoffman, creator of the web series Old Jews Telling Jokes, Humor Me is very much based around the act of joke-telling, complete with a fictional hero, Zimmerman (Joey Slotnick), who only appears in black-and-white "joke" sequences. The hero's father communicates almost entirely in jokes, and it's a joke that breaks his relationship with his son, as well as jokes that bring them back together.

Weirdly, the very funny Jemaine Clement is cast in a non-funny role, the suffering straight man who simply takes loads of grief from others. Yet Hoffman is clever enough to surround him with funny people (Annie Potts and Willie C. Carpenter are especially fun), and he never seems too pathetic; rather, he's a great sounding board for some wonderfully silly jokes.

He's also given weight by his genuinely affectionate, and heartbreaking, relationship with his young son, with whom he must communicate over FaceTime at 3 a.m. Of course, enjoyment of Humor Me largely depends on one's love (or tolerance) for somewhat ridiculous setup-payoff humor, but those that "get it" will be on board.

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