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Parents' Guide to

The Comedy Store

By Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Spotty docuseries is a mixed bag of laughs and dark themes.

The Comedy Store Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

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Though the docuseries features many funny moments and entertaining stories told by showbiz legends, it lacks any real narrative focus or through-line -- and worse, showcases a real lack of depth. Of course it's a treat to see footage of stars like Michael Keaton (a former standup, believe it or not!) back in the day, and to hear their recollections of that time. But Binder just isn't a great interviewer, and his obvious affection for the subject and personalities involved makes The Comedy Store come across more like the work of an ardent fanboy than the insightful and probing documentary it could have been. It may be that he's just too close to it, but to go to the trouble of making five hour-long episodes without ever painting a full or nuanced picture of the complicated woman who owned it -- not to mention the folks who performed at the club -- is a missed opportunity, period.

The series also skews overwhelmingly white and male. Sure, perhaps some of that can be chalked up to who was being invited to perform at the club in those days -- a visibly irritated Damon Wayans recalls bowing out of appearing there when Shore wanted him to play the "Pepper" in a "Salt and Pepper" themed act with a white guy -- but it's still a bummer seeing the show almost go out of its way not to address the racism, sexism, and homophobia afoot not just at The Comedy Store but in stand-up culture at large. Raunchy shock comic Andrew Dice Clay is profiled, and Binder tacitly accepts his explanation of his "character" at face value: that the "Dice Man" was in fact a send-up of toxic masculinity. Not sure the crowds who laughed at his slur-laden arena shows felt the same way, but Binder doesn't dare dig into that. It's also wild that publicly disgraced comedian Louis CK (who admitted in 2017 to engaging in sexual misconduct against women in his field) is invited to rhapsodize about the good old days without the slightest mention of his brush with scandal -- it's just Binder and CK, laughing it up. It seems as though this series is aimed at a certain audience, and it's not women.

If all the show tried to be was a yuk-fest, that would be one thing, but it shifts gears and occasionally tries to go deep, with segments about depression and suicide. It's just so haphazard and sloppy in its approach and tone that it never really adds up to much after all is said and done. Comedy diehards will definitely enjoy the archival footage and banter between Binder and the stars he profiles, but for casual fans, The Comedy Store may be a bit of a slog.

TV Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

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