When I was a kid, I remember watching a lot of Comedy Central. In between episodes of Dr. Katz and Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the channel would air stand up specials both old and new. Among the familiar faces I recall seeing more than a few times was the Amazing Jonathan. While Jonathan was part comedian and part magician, he seemed to lean more toward the former, creating illusions — some gruesome — that made you laugh while being fooled. With just that little background, you can probably see why the announcement that he had less than a year to live was met with some slight skepticism from fans. And, when he returned to the stage some years later, there were more questions to be answered. That’s (more or less) the main focus behind the new Hulu original film The Amazing Jonathan Documentary.
Watching the trailer for The Amazing Jonathan Documentary, I expected an extremely uncomfortable viewing experience. However, I have to say I didn’t cringe nearly as much as I thought. Perhaps that’s because the documentary isn’t so much about an allegedly dying comic magician as it is about making a documentary about an allegedly dying comic magician. Yes, this meta movie contains so many twists and layers that you’d swear it was directed by Abed Nadir.
Mind you, this is far from a bad thing. While the story of the Amazing Jonathan might be interesting enough on its own, to me, the filmmaking process and exploring what it's like to work with such a subject is even more captivating. On top of that, it’s clear that director Ben Berman doesn’t always know what to do and, at times, seems like he’s in over his head. In fact, some of my favorites part found Berman asking his interviewees — including “Weird Al,” Eric Andre, Judy Gold, and other — for their opinions on a few of his predicaments.
With all that said, the film is certainly not without its awkward moments — several of which are alluded to in the trailer. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to things like drug use and addiction, but I definitely found myself looking away from some scenes. Also, in case it wasn’t clear that Disney’s plan for Hulu is to house the non-family friendly content that won’t fit on Disney+, I should mention this film is an R-rated equivalent.
It’s funny to think that I anticipated a documentary about a comedian to be so dark and dramatic. Instead, The Amazing Jonathan Documentary managed to be as comedic and twisted as the performer himself. If that type of a wild ride sounds up your alley, then I’d recommend streaming it for yourself.
The Amazing Jonathan Documentary is now playing on Hulu.
Kyle is a writer living in Springfield, MO. His deep love of Disney and other pop culture finds its way into his stories, scripts, and tweets. His first book “The E-Ticket Life: Stories, Essays, and Lessons Learned from My Decidedly Disney Travels” is available in paperback and for Kindle. http://amzn.to/1CStAhV