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I'm Dying Up Here - The Cost of a Free Buffet - Review

Folks, I'm Dying Up Here is getting a little bit better. In this week's episode, the show shone a new light on its characters and made them more touching than before.

Based on its title, this week's episode seemed to be about the issue of wanting to get more out of a comedy gig. When Edgar decides to swing by King Theodore's, he doesn't quite yet realize what cheating on Goldie's club means. Sure, Teddy offers free food for the comedians, but Goldie's is "the only runway to Carson's," and she is not easily forgiving of this type of behavior. But if the episode tapped into the comedians need to make a living and afford basic commodities like food, the actual topic of the episode was the differences between the up-and-coming comedians and the old timers. Through guest star Judy Gold, playing Judy Elder, a comedian and old friend of Goldie, the characters question what they really want out of comedy and what they need to be doing with their lives.

The most interesting storyline of this episode actually surrounded Sully, who has to steal food from Goldie's in order to feed his family. He works at a warehouse and has to ask for more hours if he wants to make ends meet, but when he is offered an actual promotion as a salesperson, Sully's artistic desires get in the way. It's the struggle of any comedians, even in 2017, to juggle a day job with their artistic goals. To avoid having to cut his hair and shave his beard, which to Sully seems to equal to selling his soul to the devil, he reaches out to his brother to ask for money. It is only when he chats we the other comics about their relationships with their fathers, and after talking with Judy Elder about family, that Sully realizes that he has to do the best he can for his son and wife. The episode ends with him at a barber shop, shaving the artist away to become the man he needs to be for his family.

On the other end, Cassie doesn't want to have anything to do with Judy, until she actually gets to talk to her and realize that she is in fact much wiser that Cassie thought. In fact, Gold's character allows the others to face what their life could turn into. She pushes Sully to reconsider his situation, and her confrontation with Goldie at the end of the episode highlights the question of relevance when it comes to performing for a certain crowd. There is something very motherly about Goldie's character, but she can also be very harsh and ruthless. When she takes Edgar out of the line-up for performing at another club, Goldie reminds her comedians that she is all about business and that she is the boss.

This third episode also strangely toyed with the question of racism on stage, and how it should not try to pass for satire. When Steve the ventriloquist, who shares all his offensive thoughts through his dummy, gets a spot on the Cellar line-up, Adam quickly realizes that the comic's humor is pure racism in disguise. Adam, Ron and Eddie are amongst the three youngest comedians, the ones who are trying to make their way out of the open-mic onto the main line-up, and to impress the more experienced comics. These three are actually the most endearing characters of the show, the ones that we could use more time with. They improvise a bit on stage, when Steve's dummy goes mysteriously missing, preventing him from performing (because without his dummy, his bit is straight-up hate speech). The trio needs to shine more in the show, because they are the ones who actually bring humor into it.

If this episode of I'm Dying Up Here was a little more endearing than the previous ones, and delved a bit more into the lives and struggles of its characters, the show still has a hard time to find its pace and to make its humor work. It still leans more towards drama than dramedy and offers a very grim representation of what it was to be a comic in the 70s. Not that it wasn't difficult, but it probably had its moments, and we need to see more of that on I'm Dying Up Here.