The title, Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights — Hollywood to the Heartland (and hereafter shortened to VVWWCS30D30NHH), says it all: The film documents the 2005 tour of actor Vaughn's comedy and variety troupe as it travels 6,000 miles to 30 cities in the titular amount of time.
Vaughn's brainchild is named after its historical ancestor, the touring variety show Buffalo Bill's Wild West. Buffalo Bill had Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Wild Bill Hickok, sharp shooting, horse riding, and reenactments of historical events and typical life in the West.
Vaughn has Jon Favreau, Justin Long, Keir O'Donnell, and the guy who played the kid in A Christmas Story, plus four stand-ups — Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, and Sebastian Maniscalco.
Let's get the bad news out of the way: The stand-up material isn't nearly as funny as that from classic concerts by Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Lily Tomlin, Chris Rock, etc. It's really only as funny as a run-of-the-mill Comedy Central stand-up marathon.
Also, there's a whiff of the notion that the documentary — a travelogue, in many respects — is going to "discover the real America." The threat has no substance, unless you think that Memphis has been divined in a 15-second montage of Graceland and Sun Studio. (Vaughn's show performed at The Orpheum.)
Where VVWWCS30D30NHH succeeds, however, is in glimpses of the stand-ups before their set — casing the room, pre-game rituals, the nervousness — and after — the frustration, depression, or, sometimes, elation. These are perfectionists who exist for that "15 minutes of validation."
Egyptian Ahmed explains how he was detained at an airport for hours when he was suspected for terrorism. The story makes it into his material. Turning a terrifying experience into a comedy act is one way to cope. Having a job that's cathartic is all the more reason to risk failure.
VVWWCS30D30NHH also punctures the idea that being a celebrity means being financially secure. Though they're hanging out with big names such as Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, the four featured comedians are still struggling to make it. Maniscalco left his job as a waiter the day before the tour started and fully expects to go back to it when the tour ends.
Maniscalco comments about the strange turn of events where his name goes from being on a nametag one day to being in lights on a marquee the next. It's the American Dream still alive in the 21st century. Hey, maybe this movie does discover America after all.
Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show
Opens Friday, February 8th