Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show wouldn't involve horses, trick riding or rootin', tootin' sharpshootin' gals in leather stocking. Instead, host and occasional performer Vaughn would take four relatively unknown stand-up comedians and a smattering of celebrity friends on a 6000-mile, blitzkrieg tour of southern California, the southwest and major cities of the deep south and Midwest, performing 30 shows on 30 consecutive nights. And to spread the fun beyond the nightly audiences, director Ari Sandel and a small camera crew would tag along and capture all the highlights on digital video.
The end result is an entertaining tour film that intercuts scenes of on-stage acts -- mostly stand-up routines from the comics, improv moments featuring Vaughn and a friend or two and, depending on the city, the occasional musical guest -- with tour-bus antics. After an opening night on September 15, 2005, on Vaughn's adopted home turf -- Hollywood -- the tour wends its way down to San Diego, up to Bakersfield -- where Vaughn is given a snazzy red, white and blue electric guitar by his idol, Buck Owens -- over to Vegas and down into Arizona before heading east through Texas. Forced to reschedule and relocate when Hurricane Katrina decimates the Gulf Coast, Vaughn and his comedic quartet drop in at an Alabama campground-turned-refugee camp to hand out free tickets for one of the last-minute benefit shows they've set-up. It's a touching moment, and the bickering, whining boys get the reality check they desperately need after two grueling weeks on the road. The stage stuff is funny: Vaughn is an affable host whose schmaltzy SWINGERS-era Brat Pack shtick still serves him well, and he has with a real knack for comedic improv, particularly when he's playing off of old friends like Jon Favreau, Peter Billingsley (the CHRISTMAS STORY star, the tour's executive producer and Vaughn's best friend) and all-around good sport Justin Long. But the real stars of the tour and the film are the comics, four very different men with different comedic styles and, it turns out, issues. Egyptian-born Ahmed Ahmed uses his measured, non-confrontational approach to talk about how it feels to be Arab-American in a post-9/11 world; John Caparulo, a high-strung guy from Cleveland, shies away from political jokes, preferring to find humor in his own bad luck with women and life in general; Italian-American Bret Ernst routines are ethnic-based jokes and largely drawn from his own rough upbringing, but he turns a potentially crass routine about his flamboyantly gay older brother into moving tribute; and Sebastian Maniscalo, perhaps the funniest of the group, who might have the most to prove: Once the tour is over, he'll be returning his job as a waiter.
As anyone who's seen Tourgasm, the 6-part HBO series which followed stand-up sensation Dane Cook and three lesser known comics on a similarly punishing cross-country tour, can tell you, stand-up comics are a interesting bunch -- extroverts whose high-stakes exhibitionism can often mask crippling insecurities. While there are fewer meltdowns and arguments here than in Tourgasm -- a distinction probably attributable to basics differences between Cook's and Vaughn's own personal styles -- director Sandel's off-stage footage is just as compelling, and reveals multiple layers to these fascinating characters. leave a comment --Ken Fox
Inspired by Buffalo Bill's legendary traveling "Wild West" entertainment extravaganza, actor Vince Vaughn had the big idea to barnstorm America with his own touring variety show.