Movie Review: Joy Ride (2021)

As a writer and a comedian, you never want to be hacky. And I certainly don’t want to be hacky in writing about Bobcat Goldthwait and Dana Gould and their new documentary Joy Ride. Using terms like “comedy legends” and “pioneers of alternative comedy” are not original or imaginative, but they are true. But Joy Ride is not a documentary about two comedians sitting around feeding one another’s egos. It is a film about life, comedy, friendship, and it provides a more holistic picture of the people that Goldthwait and Gould are both on and off stage. They recount their victories, losses, and growth over the years as both performers and people. The film also captures the magic and unpredictability of being on the road as a comic when things don’t go as planned.

Joy Ride begins with the near-fatal car wreck that occurred at the start of the duo’s tour of the American south. Goldthwait suffered head trauma and they both came away with broken ribs. And while the car accident is part of this story, it is just a small part of this larger time capsule of this tour and time together. This documentary combines segments from their tour sets with photos and footage from their early lives and careers, set in between scenes from their conversations on the road. These are the kind of conversations that take place when you have hours to drive, very little to look at, and a good friend to share it with. And since those scenes are shot from the back seat, as an audience member you feel like you are in the car with Gould and Goldthwait hearing their dark humor and personal stories of family, childhood, careers, mental illness, their influences, and their lives now.  Aside from the personal stories and recollections from their lives, Joy Ride is also a testament to how humor, writing, and storytelling can become a channel to share about trauma and hardship for both the comedian and their audience. 

Outside of the brilliant and hilarious jokes from Goldthwait’s and Gould’s sets, probably my favorite moment from Joy Ride is when Goldthwait talks candidly about discovering that he didn’t like celebrity, and is was that realization that helped him make the choice to step behind the scenes and start telling the stories that he wanted to tell through film. This film is no exception since Goldthwait not only stars, but also serves as its director. 

Joy Ride has a runtime of 72 minutes and is in theaters and on demand starting today, October 29th.

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Darcy Staniforth

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