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Comedians Wax Poetic on the Virtue of Choking in ‘Dying Laughing’ Trailer

It’s the bugaboo that every comic who’s ever gripped a mic and squinted into the spotlight knows all too well: silence. You keep telling the jokes, and your best material isn’t getting a peep. The flop sweat starts to gather at the small of your back, and all of a sudden, you regret not taking the bottle of water they offered you backstage. The colloquial turn is ‘choking’ or ‘bombing,’ and it happens to the best of the best. They admit as much themselves in the new trailer for the upcoming stand-up documentary Dying Laughing; all the Emmys in the world can’t protect the biggest talents in the world from an occasional nuclear-class bombing, and the upcoming doc captures all the agony and ecstasy of life in comedy.

Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx and plenty more all appear in talking-head segments during the trailer in advance of the documentary’s release on February 24. They offer wisdom and perspective on topics ranging from the hungry days starting out to the profession’s effects on dating prospects to nightmarish recollections of bad sets to the moment they knew they had made it. (Foxx gets a little laugh at the tail end of the trailer, as he takes pleasure in talking himself up a bit.) Seinfeld himself pretty much sums up the complex masochism inherent to stand-up comedy with a single line at the outset: “Comedy is purely a result of your ability to withstand self-torture.”

An unexpectedly potent moment comes when Garry Shandling, now dearly departed, asks, “There’s gotta be a secret, right?” That’s the attitude that comedians have toward their craft: it’s a mystical, sacred duty that few are capable of withstanding on a professional level. To get jeered by strangers takes nerves of steel.

The Lost Episode of ‘Seinfeld’

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