Review: ‘Dying to Do Letterman’

Diagnosed with liver cancer and told he may have only five years to live, Los Angeles-based standup comic Steve Mazan resolves to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a latenight TV guest in indie docu "Dying to Do Letterman.

Diagnosed with liver cancer and told he may have only five years to live, Los Angeles-based standup comic Steve Mazan resolves to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a latenight TV guest in indie docu “Dying to Do Letterman.” Like its regular-guy subject, the pic proves more endearing than hilarious, as the thirtysomething Mazan, working without an agent, launches an earnest grassroots campaign to attract the interest of David Letterman’s talent booker Eddie Brill, whose highly particular preferences provide the film with a worthy curtain-peeling dimension. Tonally upbeat, sometimes to a fault, “Dying” will live, like Mazan, on the smallscreen.

Persistent, if not relentless, the modest, Chicago-born Mazan hones his bits in far-flung clubs, enlisting auds to email Letterman’s gatekeepers with words of praise. An exec producer sends bad news, but the comic remains undaunted, soliciting pro advice from fellow funny men and cooking up jokes between medical visits. Eventually connecting with Brill, Mazan settles on a mildly humorous routine about futzing with old-school hotel keys — a shtick whose incremental evolution toward the “Letterman” verdict becomes the pic’s most compelling element. Tech credits likewise prove sufficient to meet broadcast standards.

Dying to Do Letterman

Production

A Joke production. Produced by Joke Fincioen, Biagio Messina. Executive producers, Steve Mazan, Denise Mazan. Directed by Joke Fincioen, Biagio Messina.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Adam Sampson; editors, Fincioen, Messina; music, Dave Pelman; production designer, Elvis Strange. Reviewed on DVD, Minneapolis, Aug. 14, 2011. (In DocuWeeks, Cinequest Film Festival.) Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Steve Mazan, Denise Mazan, Ray Romano, Arj Barker, Kevin Nealon, Larry "Bubbles" Brown, Robert Schimmel, Brian Regan, Will Durst, Jim Gaffigan, Kenny Kane.

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