One late night while channel surfing, I came across a rerun of an old Barbara Walters special with special guest Whoopi Goldberg being interviewed about her newfound fame after Oscar nomination for The Color Purple.
When asked if her friends were “happy” for her, I remember vividly Whoopi recalling how before the fame she and her friends made all sorts of plans for when they ALL “made it”. However, with a melancholy face and a lump in her throat, she told Barbara that when that time came and she reached out to her friends…no one called back.
Fame is a funny thing. It makes ordinary people place you on a pedestal. Assumptions come along with the pedestal and the fame – none of which one asks for or wants. As an actor, you really just want to do great work and be compensated well. Hardly anyone thinks about the fame factor until it is standing at your front door.
Some people remain the same and others become an enhanced version of who they are at the core – which isn’t always pleasant. They become arrogant, self-centered and get selective amnesia about those who were their cheerleaders along the way.
What do you think happens in an 11 year-old improv group watches one of their own get the break of a lifetime? Will they be next or should they think about venturing down another lane in life? Will their friend change due to new circumstances? Will they bring their friends along for the ride?
Enter The Communes…an improv troupe that performing basically for free in a small underground New York City theater. Every set starts with the question, “Ok, who out there is having a particularly hard day?” The great thing about improv is that there is no wrong or right way to perform. Staying in the moment and keeping the sketch going with a series of yes…and’s gives it unlimited possibilities of where to go and how to get there. I can tell you from experience, as someone who studied at The Groundlings in Los Angeles, that it is truly harder than it looks or sounds.
Improv is what made some of our brightest comedians the greatest to hit the biz…Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Phyliss Diller and Joan Rivers being at the top of that list for me.
Don’t Think Twice focuses on the drama and the comedy surrounding The Communes when one of their own gets cast on a very popular late night sketch comedy show. It changes their relationship to each other and makes Jack (Keegan Michael-Key) take a long hard look at the person he has become.
The great thing about this film is that we get a glimpse into the lives of each member, how they got in the troupe, what makes them stay, what makes them leave and what make their bond as friends stronger than any fame or fortune.
Keegan Michael-Key (Jack) is one of the most gifted improv artists I have seen in quite some time and has that same boundless energy of Robin Williams. As Jack, he exhibits some dramatic chops that you don’t see coming, but are really glad you got to witness it.
Gillan Jacobs (Samantha) has been enjoying a lot of silver screen success since her Community days and her performance here is layered with alot of subtext and content. She’s simply an A+.
Director/Writer Mike Birbiglia (Miles) is really a writing force to reckoned with, to the point that much of this film seems like it is made up on the spot. When, in fact, every single word is scripted. Needless to say, that’s really a difficult thing to achieve unless you are Mike Birbiglia. His acting as the troupe member that is always talking about how he was “inches away” from getting his big break is so reminiscent of some folks I personally know that it made me chuckle with glee on the inside. When he’s really just the person who honed their skills as their improv teacher. Watching Mike have that revelation that he is too old to be living the “dorm” life at age 38 I’m sure with strike a chord for many actors out there.
Kate Micucci (Allison), Tami Sagher (Lindsay) and Chris Gethard (Bill) round out the cast with each one of them being more brilliant than the one before. Chris Gethard breaks your heart as the guy who just wants to make his Dad proud.