Film Review: Apostles of Comedy: Onwards and Upwards

Clearly aiming for the heartland crowd, this wholesome stand-up comedy documentary features mildly amusing, inoffensive humor.
Reviews

Representing a more wholesome alternative to The Original Kings of Comedy and The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Apostles of Comedy: Onwards and Upwards features three Christian stand-up comedians delivering family-friendly comic riffs on marriage, children, dating and assorted other topics. This faith-based project doesn’t feature any overt proselytizing, but the fact that it was apparently filmed at a Christian marriage conference in North Carolina, not to mention the not-so-subtle title, signals its intentions.

Being given a limited theatrical release, mostly in non-urban markets, the film will find its biggest audiences upon its imminent DVD release.

The film is bookended by sets featuring Jeff Allen, a burly 56-year-old comic whose routines largely revolve around his 26-year marriage and his teenage sons, with occasional sidesteps into non-threatening topics like the vagaries of weather and the ridiculousness of jogging. Asking the audience if their children have left the nest and receiving many affirmative responses, he warns, “I got bad news for you …they’re coming back.”

The thirty-something, single Keith Alberstadt—incongruously introduced in a filmed segment in which he lies on a couch while answering personal questions from an unseen interrogator, presumably a therapist—displays a far edgier, sarcastic persona in his routine featuring jokes about dating, the difficulty people have with his name, and his addiction to coffee. Declaring that he’s glad the beverage is not illegal, he comments, “I would be the most alert person at my intervention.”

Ron Pearson is the most manic of the bunch, riffing about his 14-year marriage and the difficulties of raising young children: “It’s like an episode of ‘Survivor’ at my house…we just try to make it another day without getting voted out.” He adds physical elements to his routine, at one point literally juggling bowling pins while delivering jokes and later balancing a stool and a ladder on his chin. He also frequently interacts with audience members, scoring a comic bull’s-eye with an exchange with a young married couple and their response to a query about deer hunting.

The humor is mild and inoffensive, but often quite funny. Directors Mitchell Galin and Lenny Sisselman deliver a mostly cinematically straightforward record of the proceedings, with only the occasional insertion of grainy, black-and-white shots providing a dose of stylization.
The Hollywood Reporter