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20 Years of Madness (Review)

By Elizabeth Weitz
Produced by Jeremy Royce, Jerry White Jr., Kaveh Taherian
Edited and Directed by Jeremy Royce
Starring Jerry White Jr., Joe Hornacek, John Ryan, 
Matt Zaleski, Jesus Rivera

In the mid-90s, cable access was to the fringes of society what YouTube has become to the mass population, a way to express yourself on camera in any way you see fit.

For Jerry White Jr., Joe Hornacek, John Ryan, Matt Zaleski and Jesus Rivera, those few years of localized fame came in the form of 30 Minutes of Madness, a pre-Jackassian/rougher Kids in the Hall sketch comedy show out of Detroit that gave them all a sense of self and a period of belonging…something that in the 20 years since, none of them have truly been able to achieve again.

Which brings us to the premise of the documentary. When the cast decides to reunite to make a new episode for their 20th anniversary, the guys have to reconcile the old issues of youth with the responsibilities of adulthood and figure out the answer to the ultimate question, can you ever really go home again?

The answer?

Kind of.

While the main point of the documentary is the relationships that the former group of outcasts have with each other, what is really bought to the forefront is the feeling of a generation of kids who were lost, not only from ever realizing the “American Dream” (thanks to being raised in the 1st wave of bitter divorces, Latch Key-ism and a general sense of loneliness) but also within the confines of the expectations of self.

For Jerry and the others, the expectation that they would be lifted out of the anonymity of cable access and given their very own show was not only something they believed would truly happen, it was almost a given. With the expansion of cable and satellite TV, programmers were scrambling to fill the 24-hours in a day by putting on virtually anything at the time and when no offer came, resentments between the troupe settled in and broke the friends apart.

Some, more thoroughly than the others.

As it often happens with creative types, drugs and mental illness plays a part in their own destruction (John and Matt) as does ego and bitterness (Jerry, Joe and Jesus), but don’t let these downers fool you, underneath all of that crap is still that weird freedom that only seems to reside completely in youth, when the necessity of making a “living” doesn’t keep you from doing something refreshingly stupid and awesome.

For the guys, making “just one more episode” is their way of reclaiming that part of themselves (as you can see through clips from their old shows) and perhaps rekindling the friendships that changed them into the men they are today.

As for those of us who happen to share the same generational timeline as them, well, let’s just say that the feelings and relational aspects that the documentary brings up, is bittersweet…and perhaps can be a catalyst of revisiting our own younger selves once again…warts and all.

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