Review: 'For Madmen Only' Paints a Vivid Portrait of a Comedy Legend

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 26, 2021

Ask any of the top comedians working today about major figures in the history of improv, and Del Close will come up very often. But who is he? To many, he was a mentor, brilliant mind who helped shape the much of the comedy we see today. To others, he was a son of a bitch with bad body odor, suffering from addiction and a pigheadedness that didn't make him a ton of friends. But how do you tell a story about someone who actively pushed himself out of the public eye and away from his peers in the industry? Filmmaker Heather Ross answers this question by compiling archival footage, talking-head interviews, and some well-made re-creations featuring notable stars to present a portrait of a complicated man still valued by many people.

Utopia Distribution brings this eye-opening doc about a comedy legend to Blu-ray with a great 1080p video presentation and a handful of special features. This documentary is definitely recommended to those interested in how the improv techniques developed by Close have informed so much of the great comedy we cherish today. Big comedy figures like Adam McKay, Amy Poehler, Bod Odenkirk, and many others cite Close's influence on them in the documentary, and, luckily, Heather Ross gives the film a decent structure that doesn't dip too heavily in congratulating itself for cracking open the case on Close. Rather, it offers an easygoing portrait of a man that infuriated and inspired people in equal measure.

Del Close, or the Del Close we're presented with in the film, is a slippery and unreliable narrator of his own stories. Part of that may be due to heavy drug use or his powerful creative impulses constantly adding layers onto the man's true identity. Such is the story of a man who changed comedy in huge ways. But where Ross does best is in compiling and presenting direct references to Del's improv techniques. These references play nicely against the talking-head interviews, and help break up what could easily have been a tedious watch.

There's an abundance of special features included here as well, including more footage of interviews with people like Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Ike Barinholtz, and Jason Sudeikis. If you enjoy the film, you'll find plenty of other funny anecdotes about Del Close included in these features.

Special features include:

• Audio commentary with director Heather Ross
• Additional and extended interviews
• Improv footage
• Career Advice from Lash Larue
• A Visit from L. Ron
• Between Takes with Josh Fadem
• Trailer
• Exclusive limited-edition slipcover available only at VinegarSyndrome.com


"For Madmen Only" is now available on Blu-ray from Utopia Distribution.