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I'm Dying Up Here - Pilot - Review

Based on William Knoedelseder's book of the same name, I'm Dying Up Here is the product of the minds of David Flebotte and Jim Carrey. Set in 1973 Los Angeles, this new Showtime "dramedy" series focuses on the complicated lives of those who are in the business of making people laugh.

It all starts with Clay Appuzzo (Sebastian Stan), a rising comedian who performs for the first time on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Carson, and nails it. An Italian-American from Boston, Clay proved his worth by performing at Goldie's, a renowned comedy club in L.A. While he is on Jimmy Carson's show, the other comics at the club watch his performance, some of them envious, some of them applauding his accomplishment. The show offers us a variety of characters, from Cassie (Ari Graynor), the blonde Texan girl who wants to make it an man's world, to Adam (RJ Cyler), the struggling African-American man who wants to prove his value at Goldie's. Melissa Leo is Goldie Herschlag, the mother of all comics, the one who decides who goes on the main stage or not, the one who tells you when you are ready to perform on Jimmy Carson's show. Through fine writing and directing, the show introduces its various characters by giving us a glimpse of who they are and what they want. But then, their vulnerabilities is unveiled when Clay is hit by a bus right after his glorious performance.

The reality of what it takes to make it on the L.A. stand up scene appears to not be particularly funny. From Cassie to Bill (Andrew Santino), everyone struggles, and everyone wants a piece of that cake. As Clay's parents fly to Los Angeles after hearing the news of their son's death, his Bostonian friends Ron (Clark Duke) and Eddie (Michael Angarano) also show up to Hollywood, ready to make their own comedic debut on the West coast scene, unaware of Clay's tragic fate. More and more characters are introduced to us and yet it is not hard to distinguish one from the other, as all have their own personalities that this pilot manages to differentiate with ease. The writing flows well and the episode eases the viewer into the dynamics that exists between the characters. We quickly learn what the characters are ready to do to advance their stand up careers, whether it is sleeping in a closet or randomly showing up at a memorial in hopes to get a gig.

A lot is accomplished in this pilot and we go from watching Clay reach a carrer milestone on the Tonight Show to learning from Cassie that his death might not be an accident. She believes Clay committed suicide, thinking that he considered his performance being the peak of his career and that after that there was nothing left to do for him. So one thing is for sure, the tone of I'm Dying Up Here is different than what could be expected from a show about stand up comedians. Much like Louie, the show does not only feature the humorous side of it all but actually delves into the complexity of a comic's life. They all have to find their voices and figure out what they have to say on stage, and that implies digging into their own psyches and experiences. They are all talented and hilarious, but their jokes hide a life that is a continuous struggle.

I'm Dying Up Here is off to a good start. Through their honesty and vulnerability, all the characters are endearing and can easily make viewers want to follow their stories. It's through a delicate balance of humor and drama that the show makes us want to see more of the real person hiding behind the comic's jokes.

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