There are few comedians who make me laugh—for that reason, I don't normally think of myself as a comedy fan—but Eddie Pepitone has the magic touch. Steve Feinartz's new documentary about the man, The Bitter Buddha, screened at the Northwest Film Forum for one night only on Saturday with the director and star in attendance for the Q&A afterwards (on Wednesday, Pepitone had performed at Chop Suey).
If you're interested in the work of the New York-born, Los Angeles-based comic—and cat lover!—it's a must-see, though fans of alternative comedy in general are likely to find it of interest since speakers include Patton Oswalt, Jen Kirkman, Zach Galifianakis, Mark Maron, Sarah Silverman, Dana Gould, B.J. Novak, and Matt Oswalt, creator of the great Puddin' Strip web series, in which Pepitone plays a splenetic office drone.
Poster from Pepitone's last Seattle engagement
That said, if you're enthusiastic about higher-profile performers, like Whitney Cummings or Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari, be forewarned that he has a few words about those two, but that didn't stop him from appearing on NBC's Whitney, one of Pepitone's many contradictions (a guy's gotta feed his cat).
Pepitone cracks up Feinartz
A former production assistant (Dancing with the Stars, Gangland, etc.), Feinartz may not have much formal filmmaking experience, but The Bitter Buddha is well constructed, and he doesn't stint on—or overemphasize—Pepitone's struggles with substance abuse. If he's kicked his addictions to alcohol and tobacco, food remains another matter, though he's been giving the vegan thing a try. I also found the encounters with his hard-to-please, traffic-fearing father rather moving. If that relationship has fueled his comedy, which revolves around frustration and insecurity, Eddie also craves his approval, and at the end: he actually gets some.
Pepitone does his De Niro impression
I identified with his situation more than I would've expected. I have no aspirations towards stand-up comedy or TV acting—Pepitone says he would also like to get back into play-writing—but I know what it's like to feel as if everybody in your orbit is doing better than you personally, professionally, and/or financially (and I don't even live in L.A.). That kind of thinking can drive you crazy or provide a bottomless well of material. Pepitone is the living embodiment of both scenarios.