SXSW Film Review: Thank You Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon

The late improv master finally gets his close-up

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.

Thank You Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon

Documentary Spotlight, World Premiere
Tuesday, March 15, 9:30pm, Rollins Theatre

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Sound on Sound Review: Car Seat Headrest
Sound on Sound Review: Car Seat Headrest
Slacker Pavement hooks meet James Murphy’s drollness

Doug Freeman, Nov. 6, 2016

ACL Review: Anderson Paak
ACL Review: Anderson Paak
Hip-hop/R&B fusionist takes an ATX victory lap

Alejandra Ramirez, Oct. 9, 2016

More by Sean L. Malin
Louis Black Takes Richard Linklater Doc to PBS
Louis Black Takes Richard Linklater Doc to PBS
dream is destiny airs on American Masters

Sept. 1, 2017

Totally Total Providence
Totally Total Providence
Animator Paul Beck presents A Scanner Darkly at Alamo Drafthouse Mueller

Aug. 25, 2017


SXSW 2016, SXSW Film 2016, Thank You Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle