Lemon: Annabelle Gurwitch was fired by Woody Allen. “You look retarded,” he said.
Lemonade: “Fired!” - a collection of stories from comedians, actors and writers about how they were fired. It’s been a live show, a book and, now, a movie currently in search of a buyer.
The toughest venue at the festival was the Bellyup and, “Fired! Live” had the distinction of playing at two in the afternoon on Friday, a rough time for comedy. I had read a couple of the essays in the recent book already, so I was well aware of how entertaining they were even if the audience laughs were sparse. (The biggest laugh came when Dana Gould yelled at latecomers and then pretended to start reading his essay from the beginning.) A common theme for all the stories is how shitty the jobs were in the first place - they were a blessing to be fired from. Even the Woody Allen play Annabelle was fired from is described by the New York Times as “disappointing” (noted with some deserved glee by her). My favorite essay and performance was from Andy Borowitz, who failed to be invited back as a writer for “The Fact of Life” because he actually attempts to make the characters funny rather than the “sarcastic black one” and the “sarcastic fat one.”
The film “Fired!”, along with including these stories, attempts a larger social look, with examinations of plant closings, conversations with economists like Robert Reich (who sneaks a plug in for his son’s sketch group Dutch West) and visits to job fairs and career reassessment seminars. After showing a rah-rah “We Love GM” day in Lansing. Michigan, the film then documents how GM lays off workers anyway. In the face of that, I could see some critiquing Annabelle for dwelling on her own firing by Woody Allen (the scene where she shares her experience in a class attended by other displaced workers is likely to get the most jibes), but the film points out quite accurately that anyone who’s gets fired ends of obsessing about it - it’s equally traumatic to all. The film makes clear that nearly all of us can expect to get fired at some point in our careers and gives some comfort just by sharing it. I don’t think it’ll replace “Office Space” as everyone’s go-to video for when they’re shit-canned, but maybe it’ll be a good second choice if it’s out.