When you change eighty, what new imaginative pursuit will you passionately throw by yourself into? Knitting? Bocce? Having naps? For Natalie K. Levant and George Saltz, the alternatively awe-inspiring answer was standup comedy. Their parallel adventures, onstage and off, are the issue of Elizabeth Zephyrine McDonough’s humorous and going new documentary, “Still Standing.”
Levant, who performs mostly in Philadelphia, boasts a no-retains-barred stage presence—she’s “all sequin boots and F-bombs,” as McDonough put it to me lately, in an e-mail—whereas Saltz, in New York, conjures a vibe that is gentler, much more Borscht Belt. But neither pulls any punches when it will come to the realities of previous age. “This was not a superior day for me,” Saltz jokes, in the course of a schedule. “I discovered out I was unfriended. Not on Facebook—I read it in the obituaries.” In another scene, Levant, onstage, declares that she is postmenopausal—an announcement that attracts a smattering of unsure applause. Then she goes for the get rid of: “I have no body hair. My vagina seems like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree!” With that, she has the group.
For Saltz, picking up the microphone was the realization of a lifelong dream. He grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn—on the same block as Mel Brooks—and from a young age “just desired to do shtick in the Catskills,” he says in the movie. At eighteen, he was employed to do just that, but he bought stage fright on his very first night time and was fired the next working day. Six many years passed in advance of his next gig. “For me, it came at the proper time,” he claims.
Levant, a veteran of community theatre, had in no way regarded accomplishing standup till an acquaintance urged her to, when she was eighty-1. “I found myself genuinely a misfit being an older female, widowed,” she tells McDonough in the movie. “There was, like, a structure that I was meant to stick to. But I didn’t in good shape.” She adds, “The to start with time I attempted standup, I believed, Yeah! You know, this is in which I belong.”
A great standup established “brings you on board with a whole lot of fast laughs at the leading, and then can take you alongside to anything deeper and truer that sticks with you following the present,” McDonough, who directs segments for “The Day by day Show” and also can make her individual comic limited films, explained to me. “I hoped to form the movie in the similar way.” Midway as a result of, “Still Standing”—which premièred at last year’s Lessen East Facet Film Pageant, with a Q. & A. hosted by Tig Notaro—pivots from its subjects’ standup routines to the agony that hides in simple sight in both of their lives. Both equally began in standup right after the deaths of their spouses. “I need to have it,” Saltz suggests, of carrying out comedy. “This is my way of dealing with the grief.” Levant reviews, with some bitterness, that some of her sons do not approve of her life design. “I have a great offer of suffering about the broken interactions with my sons,” she states. “Being onstage is the way that I take care of it.” Partway via filming, Saltz professional significant health and fitness troubles, resulting in surgical procedure and a prolonged clinic continue to be. His return to the phase, with Levant in the audience (the two achieved on the comedy circuit and became good friends), is a highly effective moment in the film.
“I have always had an affinity for more mature men and women,” McDonough, who is not nonetheless aged, told me. “I actually value the nutritious dose of ‘Fuck it’ mindset that can appear with old age.” Of the film’s two topics, Levant wears her “Fuck it” perspective additional on her sleeve—not that she usually wears sleeves. “As you get more mature, you’re informed to start off disappearing,” she tells the digital camera. “Cover your arms. Why really should you address your arms? Even if they appear like bags of lifeless mice. It’s just—it’s extra home for tattoos!”
“I never care if my kids consider it is silly,” she continues. “I am still executing standup”—beat—“because I can still stand up.” Amen to that. ♦