What's the Buzz?
Guide to Summer Films
Stand-Up for Your RightsComedians on the Silver Screen
The professional life of a stand-up comedian can be nasty, brutish, and short -- with the spoils of breakout success always out of reach, like a carrot on a stick. Many high-profile exceptions, however, have followed a reliable recipe: Start with stand-up, graduate to an eponymous TV show, and then hit the big time -- movies. The fact that so many of these successes eventually dropped stand-up altogether (Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal) suggests that it may have been something they lived through rather than lived for. That was certainly true for Jim Carrey, the star of the Farrelly Brothers' anticipated follow-up to There's Something About Mary, Me, Myself and Irene (June 23). Carrey has called his own pre-In Living Color stand-up work "Vegas-y crap," and never looked back after 1994, when The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb & Dumber cemented his fortunes on the big screen. Split personality disorder serves as the comedic jumping-off point for this new film, in which Carrey plays a Rhode Island state trooper whose internal "good cop, bad cop" switch goes on the blink when he loses his medication. Both personalities vie for the affections of the same girl, Carrey's real-life gal, Renee Zellweger. One of the Eighties' most successful stand-up comics, Eddie Murphy, won a reprieve from his early Nineties career lull with 1996's The Nutty Professor. In Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps (July 28), directed by Betty Thomas and co-starring Janet Jackson, Murphy once again hogs the cast list by portraying Stanley Klump, the kindly chemist with a crazed alter ego, as well as the professor's mother, father, and grandmother, all under mountains of latex and padding. If one saucy granny is not enough for you, Martin Lawrence will also be donning a fat suit for his turn as a Southern grandmother in the forthcoming Big Momma's House (June 2). Lawrence plays an FBI agent who goes undercover as Big Momma to protect a woman and her son from a dangerous criminal on his way to find them. The dubious strategies employed by the FBI are also at the heart of Bait (Aug. 11), in which a petty thief is used as ... bait to lure a dangerous criminal out in the open. Star Jamie Foxx found some success with a dramatic turn in Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday, and likewise, this film doesn't seem to be a straight-up comedy. Director Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) will be sure to make the action bits slick and Hong Kong-flavored, and oddly enough, Tom Gilroy, director of the quiet dual character study Spring Forward, one of this year's Sundance successes, was one of the film's co-writers. Keenan Ivory Wayans, who introduced Jamie Foxx to TV audiences on In Living Color, hopes to match the success of his blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna Get You Sucka with the splatter film send-up Scary Movie (July). This film has had a long existence, bearing multiple titles (Last Summer I Screamed Because Halloween Fell on Friday the 13th among them) and release dates, and the film may suffer from the inevitable winding down of the slasher cycle, which was retro-Eighties anyway. Margaret Cho's concert film, I'm the One That I Want (July 14), recounts her less-than-perfect experience following the above recipe for success. After her hard-won TV show All American Girl was canceled, the comedienne turned to drugs, alcohol, and sex to deal with her depression. For these comedians, even bad films can't compare to the stomach-churning, sweaty-palmed public flogging of a bad stand-up comedy act: If your movie bombs, at least you don't have to deal with hecklers.