Dave Thomas called comedian Del Close “a delicate basket of eggs ready to break at any moment”. Close wore a t-shirt that read ‘terror is freedom.’ He smelled of body odor, berated his students, and routinely disappeared without warning for days at a time. He was also, by nearly all accounts, a genius. One thing that director Heather Ross’s new documentary For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close reaffirms is that people are complicated, especially artists and people with creative minds. This insight has never been truer than with comedian, teacher, and founder of modern improvisation, Del Close. More than just a Zelig of comedy, Close was there at the birth of improv comedy and shaped it as it grew to become an integral part of Western culture, training and inspiring most of the famous comedians you can name in the process. He was also a liar, an iconoclast, often a jerk, self destructive, and, as the title suggests, a madman.
Releasing on Apple TV on July 27th, For Madmen Only attempts to relay the story of Close, a comedy guru so well-known that Robin Williams called wherever he was working ‘The Church of Del”, in much the same way the man himself lived. The documentary takes risks, though it warns you from the very beginning, it is intentionally unreliable in its storytelling, just as Del was. There are scenes reenacted by actors, with James Urbaniak cast as Close, in which we see interactions between the comedy icon and his collaborators at DC. It was there he was creating a graphic series called Wasteland that shared stories, real and imagined, from his life.
For the entirety of the review, go to AWFJ.org HERE.