Stand-up co­me­di­ans try to make it in L.A.’s 1970s com­edy scene in a new episode of “I’m Dy­ing Up Here,” air­ing Sun­day.

The Hamilton Spectator - - THE SPEC TV - BY KYLA BREWER TV Me­dia

The ‘70s were known for a lot of things: feath­ered hair, disco and what many con­sid­ered the golden age of stand-up com­edy. Leg­endary per­form­ers such as Jay Leno (“The Tonight Show With Jay Leno”), Robin Wil­liams (“Good Will Hunt­ing,” 1997) and David Let­ter­man (“Late Show With David Let­ter­man”) rose through the ranks of L.A.’s iconic the Com­edy Store.

But while their ma­te­rial may have been hi­lar­i­ous, their per­sonal lives were not al­ways filled with laugh­ter. A new se­ries takes a look at the se­ri­ous side of the stand-up com­edy busi­ness and the toll it can take on the per­form­ers. Melissa Leo (“The Fighter,” 2010) stars as com­edy club owner Goldie Her­schlag in “I’m Dy­ing Up Here,” air­ing Sun­day, July 9, on The Movie Net­work. The se­ries is a fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of the best­selling book by Wil­liam Knoedelseder, “I’m Dy­ing Up Here: Heart­break and High Times in Stand-up Com­edy’s Golden Age,” which chron­i­cled the era that saw the rise of some of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try’s big­gest stars.

Leo’s Goldie is loosely based on real-life star­maker Mitzi Shore, who founded the Com­edy Store in 1972 and be­came the owner two years later. Now a leg­end, Shore was a pi­o­neer in the stand-up cir­cuit, among the first to give fe­male co­me­di­ans an ex­clu­sive stage, and later host­ing spe­cialty nights for Latino, gay and les­bian per­form­ers.

In an in­ter­view with CBS News, Leo talked about her sim­i­lar char­ac­ter’s pen­chant for funny peo­ple.

“She knows funny from not funny, and that’s all she’s in­ter­ested in,” Leo said. “She doesn’t care if you’re a boy or a girl, black or white, Chi­nese — she doesn’t care. She cares if you’re funny.”

The cast­ing of the Academy Award-win­ning ac­tress as the brassy com­edy club owner cre­ated a lot of buzz in the in­dus­try prior to the show’s pre­miere Sun­day, June 4. Goldie uses her own unique brand of tough love as she nur­tures the comics in her charge, who are de­ter­mined to make it to the top.

In those days, the “top” was a gig on “The Tonight Show Star­ring Johnny Car­son.” When Car­son moved “The Tonight Show” from New York to the West Coast and started fea­tur­ing comics from the Com­edy Store, as­pir­ing co­me­di­ans flocked to L.A., spark­ing a golden era of standup. If you did well enough for Car­son to in­vite you to sit on the couch, you had it made. He be­came the yard­stick by which ev­ery­one mea­sured funny. In “I’m Dy­ing Up Here,” Dy­lan Baker (“Spi­der-Man 2,” 2004) por­trays the leg­endary Car­son.

The rest of the cast con­sists of a mix of ac­tors and ac­tual stand-up co­me­di­ans. Known for her roles in such se­ries as “The So­pra­nos” and “Fringe,” Ari Graynor has es­tab­lished her­self as an up-and-com­ing ac­tress. In “I’m Dy­ing Up Here,” she por­trays up-and-com­ing comic Cassie Feder, an am­bi­tious co­me­dian strug­gling to find her style. Ac­tor Clark Duke (“The Of­fice”) stars as Ron Shack, a comic who trav­els to L.A. from Bos­ton look­ing for fame. Michael An­garano (“Sky High,” 2005) plays Ron’s trav­el­ling buddy and fel­low as­pir­ing co­me­dian Ed­die Zei­del, while R.J. Cyler (“Me and Earl and the Dy­ing Girl,” 2015) plays strug­gling standup hope­ful Adam Proteau. SAG Award nom­i­nee Jake Lacy (“The Of­fice”) joins the reg­u­lar cast in the July 9 episode. He’ll play Nick Bev­erly, a stand-up comic who gained no­to­ri­ety for blow­ing off his sched­uled ap­pear­ance on “The Tonight Show” a few years ago. Not ev­ery­one is happy to see Bev­erly re­turn to the scene.

The rest of the main cast has first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence as co­me­di­ans. An­drew Santino (“Sin City Saints,” 2015) ap­pears as Bill Hobbs, an au­di­ence favourite at the com­edy club. Sketch com­edy vet­eran Stephen Guar­ino (“The Big Gay Sketch Show”) livens up Goldie’s stage as zany comic Sully Pat­ter­son. Erik Grif­fin (“Worka­holics”) stars as Ralph Carnegie, a stand-up co­me­dian who’s also a Viet­nam vet. “The Daily Show With Jon Ste­wart” alum Al Madri­gal has landed a role as Edgar Martinez, a bit of a loose can­non, even by ‘70s standup stan­dards.

Hav­ing two very dis­tinct ap­proaches could hin­der a pro­duc­tion, but, ac­cord­ing to Leo, the co­me­di­ans have been learn­ing about act­ing from the ac­tors, and the ac­tors have been learn­ing about com­edy from the comics. “We’re all shar­ing to­gether,” she ex­plained.

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