Irwin & Fran: Film Review

Irwin and Fran Still - H 2014

Irwin and Fran Still - H 2014

Homemade-feeling doc reintroduces an important hipster comedian.

Jordan Stone hangs out with nonagenarian stand-up comic "Professor" Irwin Corey.

NEW YORK — A friendly but haphazard portrait of an important stand-up comic, Jordan Stone's Irwin & Fran introduces "Professor" Irwin Corey, once a peer of Lenny Bruce, whose political leanings got him blacklisted and may have contributed to his relative obscurity today. (Its title notwithstanding, the film pays much less attention to Irwin's wife Fran, who says little during long scenes shot in their dining room.) Longtime friend Susan Sarandon narrates, but even her name adds little to the commercial potential of a doc that feels like a home movie. Though it's good to preserve these recent interviews for posterity, which find Stone's subject still spirited in his nineties, the film will do little to cement Corey's place in the comedy pantheon.

Archival clips capture the basic appeal of Corey's act — "doublespeak comedy" in which long streams of academic-sounding discourse add up to nonsense. Fans of Reggie Watts will find him a bit less original after hearing one of Corey's faux-intellectual, tail-chasing rants. He's just as given to rambling today, though the words don't spill out as quickly, and Stone is disinclined to cut him off when his mind wanders in between mildly amusing stories about the Smothers Brothers and Fidel Castro. "You're getting less and less interesting," Fran complains at one point, to which he replies, "well they can cut it out." But they don't.

But the real rambler here is Dick Gregory, who offers heartfelt but low-energy praise of the man he credits with helping him break into the biz. Gregory seems to say at one point that a single occasion in which he filled in for Corey at the Playboy Club led to the entire commercial success of black comedy, a claim nearly as shaky as the Prof's old explanation of why the sky is blue.

Production: Cinemastone

Director-Screenwriter-Producer: Jordan Stone

Executive producer: Naomi Schatz

Director of photography: Matt Bradbury

Editor: Stuart Greenwald

Not Rated, 83 minutes