For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close (2021)

We knew that to make the definitive movie about this icon/unknown, we would need to take the same kind of creative risks that he was famous for. As someone known for breaking down genres and experimenting with form — not to mention playing fast and loose with the truth — we decided to apply the same ideas to our film and try to break new ground with the documentary genre. This resulted in constructing a set of scenes imagining the creative process behind Wasteland, Del’s comic book autobiography.”
— writer and director, Heather Ross

When the fans of Saturday Night Live think of that groundbreaking series, they remember Bill Murray and John Belushi . . . then they’ll remember the influential Animal House and Caddyshack*, in short order.

That is, until, you watch this multimedia documentary.

After watching, you’ll come to know that all roads to that iconic, late night NBC-TV comedy series began with Del Close: the actor and writer, comedy teacher and improv maestro who directed at Chicago’s Second City — where he mentored that series’ Bill Murray, John Candy, and Tina Fey — and San Francisco’s The Committee — where Howard Hesseman, later of WKRP in Cincinnati and Head of the Class, got his start.

Of course, comic and graphic novel fans know Del Close, best, for his semi-autobiographical DC Comics anthology Wasteland — a work which serves as the source material for this documentary, with reenactments starring his past pupils, such as Patton Oswalt (Failure to Launch) and Lauren Lapkus (The Wrong Missy). Actors and filmmakers who knew him best, such as Bob Odenkirk (The Solomon Brothers), Tim Meadows (The Ladies Man), and Adam McKay (The Other Guys), also appear with their insights and memories of Del’s work.

If you’ve laughed at any of those above films, or something on television since Saturday Night Live went on the air in 1975, or any of the films connected to the cast of that iconic series — you have the “Where’s Waldo” of comedy, Del Close, to thank for those laughs. And this multimedia piece — that goes beyond the usual “talking heads” trope of most documentaries, inserting a clip here, and a photo there — is a one-of-kind, passionate testament to a man that was everywhere, and nowhere: a true dark man of comedy.

Watch it. And learn where from where the laughter comes.

For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close was acquired for international distribution by Utopia Media, which also brought the British rock document on Suzi Quatro, Suzi Q, as well as the recent WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc, about the Zamibian ’70s progressive-rock band, to the international marketplace. Another of Utopia’s award-winning documents is Martha: A Picture Story, concerned with Martha Cooper, a New York-based, trailblazing female graffiti artist and street photographer.

Utopia is headed by Robert Schwartzman — of the band, Rooney, and a writer and director in his own right — who made his feature film directing debut with the really fine comedy, The Argument, released last September. You can learn more about the launch of Utopia Media with this February 19, 2019, article at Deadline.com.

* Our resident comedy maestro, Robert Freese, of Videoscope Magazine and Drive-in Asylum, went deep into the comedic ’80s with our “Exploring: ’80s Comedies” featurette. We also explored “‘80s Teen Sex Comedies” and “Snobs vs. Slobs Comedies” as part of our “Drive-In Friday” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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