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Sunday, September 19, 2021
From left: Ari Graynor and Melissa Leo share their upcoming Showtime series, "I'm Dying Up Here."

From left: Ari Graynor and Melissa Leo share their upcoming Showtime series, "I'm Dying Up Here."

SXSW 2017: Showtime’s ‘I’m Dying Up Here’ struggles to find balance as comedic drama

On Wednesday, Showtime’s newest series, “I’m Dying Up Here,” premiered its pilot episode with South by Southwest. The show takes place in 1973, revolving around the stand-up comedy scene in Los Angeles. Melissa Leo leads the cast as Goldie, the feisty owner of the stand-up comedy club, “Goldie’s,” which is where our oddball characters congregate and perform their acts. After the screening, the cast graced the stage and joined the audience for a Q & A about their new project and what should be expected in future episodes.

“I’m Dying Up Here,” based on the novel, begins by following Clay Appuzzo (Sebastian Stan), a “Goldie’s” regular performer who makes it big by performing on “The Late Show,” his career finally seeming to take off. Some stand-up “Goldie’s” regulars are proud, others are envious, however none expect the following dark turn of events. The show has some really funny material, however this comedic element is overshadowed by a dark plot that veers too far into tragedy. The series seems lost between genres as a dark drama that heavily revolves around lighthearted comedy.

Despite the dark undertones of the series, the cast seems to have had a wonderful time producing the show. The actors revealed that a few researched the content and style of ‘70s stand-up comedy in order to master their comedic acts on the show. Most of the cast had little to no experience with stand-up comedy before beginning the series, so they practiced stand-up by performing actual shows in real life to warm up for their roles.

Academy Award winner Melissa Leo shared her enthusiasm for the show and the difficulty of playing the charismatic character of Goldie. “The script, number one, was great writing,” Leo said. “She is one of the most difficult people I have ever had to put on and play. I love being her but it’s hard work, hard work I enjoy.”

“I’m Dying Up Here” attempts to tell the untold story of standup comics in the 1970s and, for the most part, succeeds with an intriguing pilot episode. The actors are vastly talented and the 1970s time period is beautifully executed on screen, immersing the viewer into the colorful decade. However, only time will tell if the Showtime series can navigate balancing comedy with tragedy in order to pull off a successful comedic drama that elicits laughter as well as introspection.

"I'm Dying Up Here" premieres June 4 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

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