SXSW Film Review: Thank You Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon
The late improv master finally gets his close-up
By Sean L. Malin,
9:30PM, Sun. Mar. 13, 2016
A legendary improviser and coach gets some overdue acknowledgement in Thank You, Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon.
Jumping between the annual Del Close marathon hosted at New York City’s UCB Theatre, and interviews with some of Close’s most famous acolytes there – including Amy Poehler and executive producers Matt Walsh and Matt Besser – director Todd Bieber’s background in comedy shorts shines through.
As a result, this documentary is both an ode to a comedy titan and a stylistically disorganized puff piece that needs another editorial pass. Footage of Close, considered the greatest influence on contemporary improv comedy, shows him in monologues to be both a rapscallion and a genius. But Bieber supplements this with scenes of an earnest Midwestern troupe trying its hand at comedy during the marathon; and these sequences, while good-natured, don’t hold a candle to Close’s mastery.
What makes the film an ultimately warm rendering of a life well lived are the acknowledged geniuses who credit Close for the inclusive, massive, and still-booming comedy community. The blend of both found and new footage of Bill Murray, Louis C.K., and Tina Fey exalting in Close’s teaching is so convincing that, by the end, one can’t help but think: Without him, there would be no them.
Documentary Spotlight, World Premiere
Tuesday, March 15, 9:30pm, Rollins Theatre