Thank You, Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon
directed by Todd Bieber
UCB Comedy and Don’t Think Productions
Ages ago, improvisation was mostly a rehearsal tool or a writing exercise; and of course it’s a crucial skill for actors who have to deal with prop failures or missed cues. But one day in 1970 comedian Del Close saw there was more potential there, and he developed what we now call “Long Form Improv.” That’s the basis of most modem comedy troupes from Second City to Upright Citizens Brigade down to our local Sak Comedy troupe. Close started “The Committee” in San Francisco and went on to mentor dozen of important comedians from John Belushi to Mike Meyers to Chris Farley. He had little notice outside of the comedy community, but what he’s left behind is celebrated in a marathon of Improv performances; they run for 55 hours straight through. It’s a big party, and while we see a few slices of performance, the emphasis is on interviews with his cohorts. You don’t see much in the way of skits here; focus is kept on Close’s impact on the artists.
Highlights here includes a new improv group from rural Missouri coming to the big city; they learned from YouTube and Wikipedia and now travel to NYC to try out the big time in front of a “Real Audience.” I like the enthusiasm, but their techniques needs a bit of work. Amy Poehler explains the guts of long form improv; in archival footage Del Close explains his work; and a dozen folks offer reminiscences, both good and bad. Close taught student to work at the top of their intelligence and treat the audience as if there were poets and geniuses. The audience would then become those very things. Close had his problems, mostly related to drugs, but he accepted death. We see bits of film from his “Celebration of Death Party” filmed the day before he died. If nothing else, this shows some excellent planning skills. If you’re a fan of comedy, this is a must see, and if you’ve not seen much improv this film will help you understand its structure.
This film will be shown as a part of the 2016 Florida Film Festival. For tickets, show times and location please visit www.floridafilmfestival.com
Del Close Marathon: delclosemarathon.com