Review: The Big Sick is funny, apart from the stand-up comedy scenes

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan (Emily) in The Big Sick. Picture: Studiocanal/Nicole Rivelli.

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan (Emily) in The Big Sick. Picture: Studiocanal/Nicole Rivelli. - Credit: Archant

Based on the real-life courtship of Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V Gordon, who co-wrote the script, this cross cultural romcom manages to be amusing despite spending half its running time in hospital.

Adeel Akhtar (Naveed), Anupam Kher (Azmat) and Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick. Picture: Studiocanal

Adeel Akhtar (Naveed), Anupam Kher (Azmat) and Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick. Picture: Studiocanal/Nicole Rivelli. - Credit: Archant

The Big Sick (15)

***

The comedian Simon Munnery (League Against Tedium) once did a sit down, non-character, confessional routine where he told the story of how he met his wife.

He was on stage in Australia, doing badly, when he heard a female shout out, 'Don't die.' The irony there being that he would then be diagnosed with cancer and she'd have to assist him through a bout of chemotherapy.


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The Big Sick is almost the same story but this time it is the female audience member Emily (Zoe Kazan) who gets sick after making an encouraging heckle to Pakistani comedian (Kumail Nanjiani.)

When you hear a film is about a stand up comedian, and is based on true events, only a fool would go in expecting anything funny. Comedians are too precious about their craft to truly believe there is anything funny about it. So although Nanjiani's version of How I Met Your Mother (written with his wife, Emily V. Gordon) is actually pretty funny (impressive considering it's a cross cultural romcom that spends half its running time in hospital) it can't just be funny.

Zoe Kazan (Emily) and Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick. Picture: Studiocanal

Zoe Kazan (Emily) and Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick. Picture: Studiocanal - Credit: Studiocanal

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The credits announce that the film is An Apatow Production (older readers may remember when he answered to Judd) and you can tell it is a House of Apatow work because it goes on too long and because of that doesn't get the most out of the material.

It also has the Apatow thing of wanting to be more than just funny, to share something with you. One of the film's recurring gags is Kumail's self-indulgent one man show about his Pakistan background that his friends supportively sit through. The film is doing much the same thing, only more entertainingly.

The Big Sick is consistently amusing, apart from the stand-up scenes. Comedians get in everywhere these days, making comments and observations, and the rampant proliferation of stand-up comedy has completely neutralised this once great art form.

Nobody in the film actually says, 'Have you ever noticed....?' or 'What it is with....?' but they don't need to, it's a given. This century comedians are like consultants; a level of bureaucracy that has somehow managed to make themselves an essential part to the system.

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