Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Road Hard: Maybe Sort of the Adam Carolla Story

Comedian Bruce Madsen is sick of going out on the road. The only consolation is he lives in Los Angeles. He is pretty sick of it too, but he stays because that is where his daughter and the business are. He grinds away hoping his agent will find a way to get him back on television, enduring the pettiest annoyances the club circuit has to offer in Adam Carolla & Kevin Hench’s Road Hard (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Madsen was once the co-host of the crude but popular Bro Show. His former partner is now the star of his own late night network talk show. Yes, there do seem to be some parallels between Carolla’s life and his on-screen character. Madsen is also divorced, living in the converted garage of his former McMansion, so he can be close to his adopted daughter, Tina—that is when he happens to be in town. Since Madsen was once on television, he can still draw relatively well at middling comedy clubs, but it is getting to be a drag.

Madsen perks up a little when he meets Sarah at a typically de-moralizing gig. Of course, she happened to be there through a strange set of circumstances. She certainly isn’t a fan, but they will somehow meet again. Will Madsen finally get off the show business treadmill or will his persistence finally be rewarded? Road Hard will answer those questions satisfyingly, but first Madsen’s ego will have to take a few beatings.

Road Hard is sort of like Scared Straight for anyone considering a career as a comedian, but it is consistently humorous, nonetheless. Clearly, Carolla can still do old school stand-up, because his bits are peppered throughout the film. He is also quite funny kvetching with his cronies Phil Rosenthal (essentially playing himself) and David Alan Grier (as Michael Gerard, a comic on an unlikely upswing). Yes, you read that here first—the words “David Alan Grier” and “funny” used in the same sentence. Howie Mandel also turns up for an unusually edgy and self-deprecating cameo, again as himself, but Larry Miller disappointingly resorts to a lot of shtick as Madsen’s sleazy agent (is there any other kind?), “Baby Doll” Weissman.

Yet, one of the nicest surprises is the easy-going chemistry between Carolla and Cynthy Wu and his former Loveline colleague, Diane Farr, as Tina and Sarah, respectively. These feel like believably imperfect but workable relationships. In fact, there are some moments down the stretch that are quite sweet, despite all the preceding masturbation jokes.

Yes, Road Hard works blue from time to time, but it has both an edge and a heart. Its show business insider stuff rings true and it delivers laughs at a more regular pace than the standard issue studio comedy. Recommended rather enthusiastically for stand-up fans and those of us who always wondered what went on behind-the-scenes at Loveline tapings, Road Hard opens this Friday (3/6) in New York at the AMC Loews Village 7 and also launches on iTunes day-and-date.