Sundance Preview: National Lampoon, Robin Williams and the Elliott Family Among Highly Anticipated Comedy Premieres

Comedy often makes appearances at Sundance, and this year, the infamous and prestigious film festival is spotlighting some tremendous comedy talents both in front of and behind the camera. There are so many exciting projects, including a documentary about Robin Williams, the highly anticipated biopic of the early days of National Lampoon and its founders, a dramatic feature from Bo Burnham that will be a part of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance, a biopic about quadriplegic comedy artist John Callahan, a comedy series featuring Franchesca Ramsey and Michelle Buteau, and a film from Bridey Elliott that will feature several members of the Elliott family.

A highly anticipated bio-premiere, A Futile and Stupid Gesture covers the story of the National Lampoon focusing on the comedy empire’s creators, Doug Kenney and Henry Beard. Part of the excitement about this Netflix biopic is because Kenney’s story is fascinating and compelling, from founding a comedy empire to his dramatic and untimely death and heavy drug use. But everyone’s also anxious to see this film because it also shares stories of the career beginnings of some of comedy’s most revered performers- comedians like Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray and everyone is excited to see if the younger comedians who will be portraying those legends can do them justice. David Wain directs the movie, which stars Will Forte, Martin Mull, Domhnall Gleeson, Matt Walsh, Joel McHale, Emmy Rossum.

We can’t wait to check out the latest project to come from the Elliotts- a comedy dynasty. This is a family project; Clara’s Ghost which sounds like the most promising of all the comedy projects is directed by Bridey Elliott who also wrote the screenplay and co-stars. The film is set over the course of a single evening at the Reynolds family home in Connecticut. Clara (Paula Niedert Elliott in her film debut) is fed up with the constant ribbing from her self-absorbed showbiz family including her actor husband played by Chris Elliott and her child star twenty-something kids, played by Abby Elliott, and Bridey Elliott. When the girls return home to be a part of a family photo shoot for a magazine, while celebrating their dog’s birthday with a friendly drug dealer, everything becomes a drunken mess. Clara, who believes she’s being haunted, turns to a supernatural force for guidance. We can’t wait. The film is being produced by Sarah Winshall and Rachel Nederveld.

Marina Zenovich directs Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, and takes an intimate look at one of the world’s most beloved comedian. Told largely through Robin’s own voice using archival footage that has never been seen before, as well as interviews with friends and colleagues like Pam Dawber and Billy Crystal. The film looks at his extraordinary life and career and sets out to reveal the spark of madness that drove him.

You can see comedian Bo Burnham’s feature film directorial debut at Sundance this year. Burnham directed two of his own comedy specials and in 2017 directed the critically lauded Jerrod Carmichael hour titled ‘8‘. His feature debut focuses on thirteen-year-old Kayla, who is enduring a disastrous eight grade year, navigating the tidal wave that is suburban adolescence. Titled Eighth Grade, the film stars Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton.

Critics are already excited about the Gus Van Sant directed biopic Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot about John Callahan (played by Joaquin Phoenix), who found he had a talent for off-color jokes… and a drinking problem. The film revolves around Callahan’s life after a drinking bender ended in a car accident that left him permanently confined to a wheelchair. Callahan’s real-life illustrations found beauty and comedy and controversy in the absurdity of the human experience. Also starring Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black.

Also debuting at Sundance, are two indie comedy series, the first from comedian Franchesca Ramsey titled aptly, Franchesca. Ramsey explores beauty and fashion, and in the pilot, spends the day with friend and fellow comedian Michelle Buteau. The Mortified Guide brings a comedic look at the biggest issues of adolescence—from first loves to fitting in—as adults share their childhood writings and art in front of total strangers. Based on the Mortified stage shows, books, podcast, and film, this docu-series celebrates the awkward insecurities that shaped us all. Casting includes Robert Woo, Katie Westerfield, Adam Ruben.

The 2018 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 18 through 28th in Park City, Utah.  Visit for details.


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