We stopped by the premiere of Robert Klein: Still Can’t Stop His Leg, a documentary exploring the comedy legend, held at SVA Theater.
You might not know Robert Klein by name. You’ve surely seen him: He was in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sharknado, and The Mysteries of Laura. But his reign has been much longer and far more varied. He’s the godfather of modern stand-up comedy, employing innovative techniques that have shifted the dynamic of comedy towards something far more imaginative and exciting. He’s now the subject of an overdue documentary, out today on STARZ, called Robert Klein: Still Can’t Stop His Leg, directed by Marshall Fine. It features considerations by Jerry Seinfeld, Eric Bogosian, Richard Lewis, Billy Crystal, Jay Leno and more. They, all tremendous comedians in their own right, remark on the power and influence Klein has had on them. But the documentary has plenty of Klein, too: he’s 75 year old and as vibrant as ever, willing to make the extra joke, go just over the top, all while enjoying a comfortable life outside of New York City with his family. For his part, Klein cites two comedy gods, Lenny Bruce and Jonathan Winters, as influences. If anything matters to Klein, it’s the civility and respect comedy deserves. “To dignify and make more important standup comedy. Talking about something, not just a joke.” For those unfamiliar with Klein’s direct work (many HBO specials), this is an opportunity to get a brief look at some of his finest work, as well as Klein today- playing up the image of being elderly and annoyed- but at the heart of it, truly just having fun. His wit and charm is on full display, his grace and tact unmatched. The interactions with Rodney Dangerfield (they were good friends) as well as a cameo by Don Rickles allows for an exposure to a different era of comedy- one slightly more polite but faster- deeply contingent on setting and rich personalities.
Robert Klein: Still Can’t Stop His Leg is loaded with history (I found myself taking notes) and exposes viewers to a relatively comprehensive history of Robert Klein and his pure and unadulterated approach to comedy. The most interesting exposure was Robert’s introduction of cursing to comedy (literally shouting expletives as a joke) has turned into a modern form of comedy on its own- which Klein doesn’t necessarily approve of. Indeed, in a Q&A after the screening (which revealed first-hand how keen Klein is), he said the use of foul language is totally unnecessary- it’s a crutch- “if it’s not part of the punchline, it’s usually not necessary”.
Executive-produced by Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, and David Glasser, the documentary will premiere on Starz and Starz On Demand Friday, March 31 at 10 p.m. ET. Network subscribers will also be able to stream and download the title through the Starz app on that date.