Review: “The Opening Act” Serves Up a Realistic Slice of the Stand-Up Scene

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Courtesy of Twitter

‘The Opening Act’ starring Jimmy O. Yang, Alex Moffat and Cedric the Entertainer

Leuel Bekele, A&E Editor

“The Opening Act” is an independent film about an aspiring stand-up comedian named Will Chu (Jimmy O. Yang) who is given the opportunity to emcee for his favorite comedian, Billy G (Cedric the Entertainer) while he’s on the road.

In the process of making his dream a reality, Will is faced with the challenge of finding his footing as a comic.

The film boasts a reputable cast featuring comedians such as Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show), Tom Segura, Bill Burr and a number of others. Debby Ryan, who starred in Disney’s “Jessie” from 2011-2015, plays Will’s girlfriend.

A good portion of the movie plays out on stage with the aforementioned comics taking a go at the mic. As the emcee, Will presents them and does some time on stage to warm up the audience.

Throughout the movie, Will plays the straight man to the point where I was dying of secondhand embarrassment. Not only does he repeatedly bomb, but he gets heckled, dragged on to the radio, talked down to by his boss and even coerced by the police in an unexpected turn of events.

All the while, his position as an emcee is put in jeopardy by his lack of confidence.

At first I was confused as to why Will wasn’t coming out of the gate with the exaggerated swagger of a stand-up comic — but in retrospect, I found it to be illuminating to the experience.

Real-World Relevance

In “The Opening Act,” Will is a seasoned open mic goer, much like most comics are when they first start out.

I know firsthand that stand-up comedy isn’t easy to get into. And while I haven’t bombed to the degree that Will has, I’ve experienced a fair share of negative experiences akin to it which gave me insight as how to avoid it on stage.

My earliest experience with bombing occurred during my first job interview. I was nervous and on top of that, I couldn’t really see myself in the position. When they told me I didn’t get the job, I was disappointed yet somewhat relieved.

I learned from that experience and adapted my interview strategy to the stage. When it comes to presenting yourself in any capacity, all you need is a plan, some practice and the ability to tell a story. Usually, the rest will fall into place if you follow the first two steps. 

In my situation, practice made perfect. My very first set was a three-minute breeze of an anecdote.

I practiced by recording myself speaking my notes aloud, which helped me develop a flow and keep within the time limit when I took the stage at the open mic. I also rehearsed in front of my friends.

“The Opening Act” bears resemblance to Leslie Small’s “2 Minutes of Fame,” which was released earlier this year and stars Jay Pharoah and Katt Williams as a duo with a similar dynamic to Will and Billy G.

While Pharoah’s character participates in a stand-up competition, Will is taking different steps towards his dream — proving how artists can often walk the same paths with different shoes.