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The Bitter Buddha (movie review)

Review by Clay N. Ferno

Produced by Steven Feinartz, Mikki Raphael Rosenberg 
Directed By Steven Feinartz
Starring Eddie Pepitone,  Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt,  Paul Provenza, Dana Gould, Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman, B.J. Novak, Marc Maron, Todd Barry, Andy Kindler 

On VOD and iTunes

Visit https://www.thebitterbuddha.com for
theatrical screening information

The Bitter Buddha is a documentary film about middle age comedian Eddie Pepitone (The Long Shot Podcast, Puddin’ Strip).

Eddie is true comic’s comic that has been acting and doing standup since the 80s that never quite caught his industry break. The film explores Pepitone’s angry side as a person who can at the same time express gratitude for his place in the comic industry and society in general, but also exposes his fears and doubts about where is career may go and where this world is headed.

Eddie keeps great company in the world of comedy. The Bitter Buddha features great interviews with pals Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Marc Maron, Zach Galifianakis and more. They all seem to broach the same question—why isn’t Eddie Pepitone a household name?

Pepitone’s comic stylings are comparable to Louis CK, and this
documentary explores some of the reasons Eddie is not as successful as
other comics. We root for Eddie to get the exposure of a Comedy Central
special some day soon, though it might be that this break comes too late
in his career.

Fans of The Long Shot Podcast hear tales of Eddie going out and reading for parts in television and movies in L.A. that are typical tales of Hollywood. Never a leading man, until this documentary that is, Eddie has been relegated to bit parts. You’ve seen him as the postman in The Muppets, or on Weeds or House. You might recognize his voice on Bob’s Burgers. But always The Bitter Buddha is forever frustrated. It’s part of his personality, really, to be seeking that Golden Ring of stardom and it seems to be always out of reach.

Pepitone uses this strange energy to his advantage. After partying for many many years, he finds solace in his sober meditative hikes and squirrel-feeding lunches. His relationship with his girlfriend Karen (shouted out on the podcast each time with a resounding running joke, “hey baby!) keep him grounded. Watch out though, when you get behind the wheel of his rusty car into L.A. traffic. The bitterness pushes aside the Zen practice and the swears start flying.

As with all great art, frustration and hunger drive the best creativity. Being on the come-up in show business for 30+ years can make for the best material. The best writing comes after living many years of hardship and diligence. Stan Lee’s revolution at Marvel came in his 40s. Eddie Pepitone has lived show business and comedy and has graced many stages. With the socio-economic situation we find ourselves in at 2013, it may just be the time for us to shine the spotlight on what Eddie has to say on stage about corporations and banks. A frustrated and highly intelligent man that can spin humor on our condition might just be the voice of the 99%.

For the best of Eddie’s daily absurdity and astute observations turn to his Twitter page.  “To do list: 1) punctuate meeting by taking my life at end of it. 2) teach little Timmy how to spell in a crisis.”

Eddie loves Twitter and is amazing at it, if such a skill were a notable skill on a resume. The film animates Eddie tweeting, as well as some more animation of Eddie’s stand up skits in the style of Shorties Watching Shorties.

The film crew made an appearance a few times live on The Long Shot Podcast in comedian Kevin Conroy’s kitchen. The documentary also shows on the set of  Matt Oswalt and Eddie’s daily live action Puddin’ Strip. The one minute videos star Matt as a corporate stooge in a lunch room trying to silently eat his pudding cup as co-worker Eddie attempts to make conversation about morning zoos, celebrity abductions, drug use and Lion King costumes. Guest stars on the strip include Robin Williams, Weird Al, Patton Oswalt and Laura Silverman.

Taken as a whole they are hilarious, it may take you a few strips to catch what’s so hilarious about the YouTube channel. The nearly 500 videos allow Eddie to be nearly a different scumbag every Monday through Friday.

The story in the documentary deals not only with Eddie’s career, writing and home-life but also his past and his relationship with his parents. Eddie was mostly raised by his father after a certain point in his life and Eddie deals with getting his father’s approval even in late adulthood. When Eddie returns to New York for a headlining stand-up show at Gotham Comedy Club, Mr. Pepitone is resigned to skip going to Manhattan to see his son perform. Eddie’s anxiety is raised about this, as he loves his father deeply and wants to impress him. The way this situation resolves itself in the documentary is touching and palpably authentic, as support from one’s family is paramount in the creative field.

Fans of stand-up comic heroes George Carlin and the recently center stage Louis CK will enjoy Pepitone’s brand of comedy. This documentary serves to introduce you to a hidden talent and acquaint you with a genuine spiritual person. The funny part is—as is shown in the film—that a spiritual person can have bitterness and anger without being a contemptible individual. There is a reason Eddie is so well respected by his peers, and we can only hope that this spotlight helps his career as it may have set out to do, because someone working this hard for so long deserves the attention.

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