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A stylized shot of Frank Whaley's character (Jimmy O'Brien) in Frank Whaley's "The Jimmy Show" (2001).

An Underrated Gem: On Frank Whaley’s “The Jimmy Show” (2001)

‘This isn’t funny,’ says Jimmy O’Brien (Frank Whaley) on what is presumably his last night as an open mic stand-up comic. For years, he’s been delivering his stale routine to a handful of patrons, none of whom ever laugh. And why would they? Not only is Jimmy not funny, but rather, very sour in his humor, wit, and delivery. It’s only at the film’s end that he comes to realize this. The years of occasional heckling, stone faces, and coughs in the crowd didn’t deliver the hint, but that he comes to accept this on his own is the important thing. What did it? Perhaps the fact that he’s managed to push everyone away? Something in him tells him to stop. ‘No more jokes,’ he says.

The Jimmy Show opens with Jimmy driving his dilapidated car to the Laugh In comedy club, located in suburban New Jersey. His invalid grandmother is in the passenger seat, ‘I thought we were going to get my pills,’ she says. ‘Wait here, I’ll be right back,’ Jimmy replies, as he eagerly enters and asks about open mic night. The manager is annoyed by his presence, ‘Did you get that tape I sent in?’ Jimmy asks. ‘Look, just sign your name and you get 10 minutes—it’s open mic.’ Here is perhaps the first glimpse of Jimmy’s cluelessness, as he believes that open mic night is his ‘big break,’ then only afterwards does he come to learn that his girlfriend Annie (Carla Gugino) is pregnant. (Jimmy ultimately suggests the name Wendy for the child—after Peter Pan, a reflection of this man refusing to grow up.) […]