Stand-up Effort—Goodbye Baby at Cinequest

Just coincidentally, I was slogging my was through the DVD of the Spike TV bank-robbery mini-series The Kill Point, starring announced-the-unannounced Cinequest Maverick John Leguizamo, when I realized that the “sexy girl hostage” part was taken by Christine Evangelista, star of the Cinequest feature Goodbye Baby—talk about synchronicity.

In Goodbye Baby, Evangelista plays an 18-year-old who heads to New York to try out her quips as a stand-up comedian. She rooms with her brother, who leads a gay jazz band, and gets a job waitressing at a comics’ club owned by Jerry Adler (Hesh on The Sopranos).

Her first attempts at jest fall flat; her routine about paper or plastic is worse that that Ovaltine joke Jerry gave to Kenny Bania. In the films’ funniest conceit, she hones her craft—talking in front of strangers, basically—by attending NA meetings. The knock-about life of young artists in New York is nicely rendered, especially the desperate need for laughs and approval that eats away like acid at even the most congenial comic. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Melissa’s material got any better, although we are supposed to think that it has.

In pursuit of its notion that comedy comes from pain, director/writer Daniel Schechter throws in a painful complication about a tragedy in Melissa’s past that she must comes to terms with. It’s not a bad idea to add some spine to the generally genial proceedings, but the revelation is poorly handled. One member of the screening I attended blurted out the question most of us were thinking, “Who IS that guy?”

Evangelista is appealing—both attractive but not full of herself. (Although she has the annoying habit of gripping her ear-buds cord in her mouth like a dog holding its leash.) She could be Keri Russell with a touch of Jenny McCarthy. Props also to Kevin Corrigan, the sad-faced comedian who intros the acts at the comedy club. His deadpan delivery is spot on.
Goodbye Baby shows one more time at the festival: March 9 at 1pm at Camera 12.

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