It’s not often a documentary takes an unflinching look at its subject. Things tend to be glossed over, or stories that paint the person in an unflattering light are kindly omitted.
And yet, For Madmen Only: The Stories Of Del Close feels entirely difficult and authentic, as well as endlessly loving of the conflicted, troubled man at the same time.
This icon really led the improv movement, and presented a new, more versatile and razor-sharp form of comedy compared to those on the scene at the time. His struggles and triumphs are all chronicled here.
Close is considered a legend, and yet no one outside the comedy world knows him. He’s worked with Bill Murray, John Belushi, Mike Meyers, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler and more. He’s loved and revered in industry, but he never became a household name.
That, this incredible doc posits, is an entire shame. Close was a master of improvisation, and his teachings have influenced the best comics for four decades. But as his disciples became famous and used the things he taught them for the betterment of comedy, he was left behind.
Del Close was an incredible student of the trade and teacher to others, but it’s made clear that he was also, for lack of a better word, insane. His outbursts and violence led to him spending tim in psychiatric facilities. He dealt with addiction issues most of his life.
And yet, these comedians take an entirely honest look at him. The stunning thing is that they can’t contain their love for him while they tell horrifying stories about him.
Close was a complicated man, but here he’s an entirely fascinating character to study, and his mark has been left on the comedy world forever.