REVIEW: ‘I’M DYING UP HERE’ IS SHORT ON LAUGHS, PAINTING A DARK PICTURE OF COMEDY!

Comedy is supposed to be all about the laughs. But of course it isn’t. Behind the punchlines, lies a darker side which is explored in Showtime’s latest drama, I’m Dying Up Here.

Set in the 70s, the series follows struggling stand-up comics putting their best material to the test at Goldie’s, a small club on the Sunset strip shepherded by a no-nonsense matriarch (Melissa Leo). A death pushes the group together, a heaviness that permeates the show. The starving artists take their turns in the spotlight, hoping to make it onto The Tonight Show and get the Johnny Carson seal of approval. But behind the scenes, the laughter fades. Self-doubt, money troubles, drugs…are a reality that exposes the darker side of things.

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Show creator Dave Flebotte (Masters of Sex) and executive producer Jim Carrey successfully conjure the pitfalls and unforgiving slog of the up-and-coming comedian’s life but in dwelling on the darker aspects, there isn’t enough light to balance it out. In short, the show takes itself too seriously for its own good.

Bright spots include a fully committed turn by Oscar winner Leo, bringing her dramatic heft to the table and a standout performance from Ari Graynor portraying Cassie, the sole female act who suffers verbal indignities and sexism every time she takes the stage. This is a man’s game which Cassie must play in, with much needed grit and abundant talent.

Sexism and racism are tackled head-on, uncomfortably at times – both issues that have long plagued the comedy circuit, especially in the 70s. The underbelly of the industry is exposed and it is no laughing matter.

But what Dying desperately needs is more levity. The doom-and-gloom approach is hard to take for an hour-long show about funny men and women, so let’s hope we get more laughs as the season unfolds.

‘I’M DYING UP HERE’ AIRS ON SHOWTIME, SUNDAYS, 10 PM ET/PT.

PHOTO: SHOWTIME

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