“Dying to Do Letterman” Entertains and Inspires


Everybody dies from something. When it boils down to it, life is kind of a crap shoot. Nobody really knows what’s going take them out: heart attack, tsunami, crazed rabid dog while jogging. Most people just hope to live a long happy life and be ready to go when the time comes, and hopefully that time is far off into the future. If you work hard and have a bit of luck fall your way, you may even achieve some of your dreams along the way. Stand up comic Steve Mazan had dreams. He’d already dropped out of the corporate rat race to fulfill his dream of earning a living as a stand-up comic.  But his ultimate dream, since age twelve, was doing stand-up on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Diagnosed with a rare, slowly progressing, and essentially untreatable form of liver cancer Mazan suddenly finds himself on an amped up life trajectory of a worst case scenario of five years. The film, shot over the course of those five years, follows Mazan as he works toward his dream.

Mazan did not initially set out to make a film. Initially he set up a website to garner public support for his quest, posting home made videos of his stand up and updates on his journey. Then husband and wife film makers Joke Fincioen and Biagio Messina begin documenting Mazan’s journey to get to the Letterman show or die trying, and expertly weave the pieces of professional and home hand held HD film together. Life changing emails and phone calls sometimes arrive at inconvenient times.  Documenting those moments with a home video camera allows for real time emotion, not just a recollection of it, and makes for some of the best moments of the film.

Mazan’s journey is intense. He gained the attention of the show’s producers, but then quickly learned that he would not be granted any favors even though he was dying. He doesn’t let cancer slow him down from doing the work he needs to do. He continues to perform and perfect his craft in order to be the caliber of comedian and garner the attention that he’ll need to be booked on the show. Mazan even seeks the advice of stand up comics who have appeared, such as Ray Romano, Kevin Nealon, and Brian Regan. Their advice proves invaluable, even if their belief in Steve’s mission seems more than skeptical.

Although a comic may stand on stage alone, Mazan allows us in to see his network of friends supporting him through his illness and the wife by his side. Denise supports her husband’s quest, and employ’s a few new age techniques to extend his life. But she also longs for her own dreams and a family. Mazan’s internal struggles are vividly played out on the screen through his relationship with his wife and how his quest affects her wishes to have a normal life in their short window of opportunity.

Dying to do Letterman is funny, heart wrenching, and triumphant. Viewers will be inspired to take few moments to think about what they are dying to do. Then, maybe, even do it.

Run Time: 75 Minutes. Unrated.

Grade: B

Author’s Note:  At press time, this film does not have distribution but has been critically acclaimed at film festivals throughout the country.

 

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