FUNNY PAINS is a documentary centering around the life of Wendi Starling, LA native but NYC based stand up comic. Wendi, and FUNNY PAINS hits us with the truth right out the gate, opening with her stand up routine about her hospitalization for paranoid schizophrenia. In a moment, our Wendi steals our heart. Bi-polar, bold, and beautiful — opening with vulnerability and humor, she completely owns everything she is – manic, frightened, and deliciously funny.
Director Jorgy Cruz set his camera on something we all know exists but are afraid to discuss – the dark side of comedy. Depression, anxiety, and life trauma are just pieces of the puzzle that creates a hysterical performer. Robin Williams, famously and tragically, became a poster child for this. Jorgy, and Wendi shed light in the darkest corners of this – on Wendi’s journey, on her friends, on the comedy community – unabashedly and unashamedly. Through tears, and laughter, the truth is spilled out all over the stage every time she speaks, and we are moved to cry and laugh right along with her.
Wendi’s comedy is deeply rooted in her self esteem (or lack thereof) and her need to be loved and valued. We see her struggle with her looks, her lack of meaningful relationships, her difficult childhood. She suffers from gifted child syndrome – growing up believing you’re something special because you’re smart and gifted, which leads to adulthood being unfulfilling and cold. Her parents divorced when she was eight, as her self esteem issues hit a peak, and the instability of that led to a lifetime of seeking stability. In a beautiful way, Wendi’s snarky, self deprecating humor reminds me of Carrie Fisher. A lifetime of honesty, and raw truth, told with a salty attitude and a drink in hand.
FUNNY PAINS unabashedly touches on subjects most would find completely taboo – alcoholism, addiction, assault, rape, suicide – and while these subjects should come with a content warning, they’re presented in a way that isn’t inflammatory, and doesn’t glorify the lifestyle that creates this chaos. Wendi takes us step by step through her journey to getting clean and sober, and to finding joy from comedy instead of from substances. We as the audience see her growth – from that first story about the psych ward, to her success in her weekly comedy shows in New York City.
FUNNY PAINS is an intimate portrait of a lady – no, a broad – on fire. Interviews interspersed with her personal video diaries, and plugged into round table discussions between Wendi and other comedians, write the story of this remarkable powerhouse of a woman as she battles her way to the top of the comedy scene. Her recovery, her downfalls, and her rediscovery of herself are told with such heart and truth that I found myself moved to tears and cheering for her triumphs. FUNNY PAINS is a must watch for anyone who struggles with addiction or mental health, and anyone who has a passion they’d do anything for. Thank you, Wendi, and thank you, Jorgy, for an insightful and meaningful documentary about truth — and thank you for the laughs along the way.
|Runtime:||1hrs. 30 Mins.|