From the outside, the comedy world seems brutal. Stand-up and improv comedians usually work late hours for little pay, all in pursuit of a big break that may never come.
Anyone who sticks with it for a long time without big success is either extremely committed to the craft or somewhat delusional about his or her talent.
People on both sides of that divide populate Don’t Think Twice, which follows a New York City improv troupe called The Commune. The sextet — Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Miles (Mike Birbiglia), Bill (Chris Gethard), Allison (Kate Micucci), and Lindsay (Tami Sagher) — have been together for years, with the goal for all of them to be picked for the cast of Weekend Live, an obvious stand-in for Saturday Night Live.
When only two of them are invited to audition for the show, cracks start to form in the group’s normally tight bond. When only one is chosen, those cracks become bigger and bigger, eventually threatening not only the group’s survival, but also their friendships.
Written and directed by Birbiglia, the film has its fair share of laughs, but it’s also filled with a good amount of sadness and awkwardness. Each member of the group has had such a single-minded pursuit for so long that the realization that they might not make it after all hits them hard, in a variety of ways.
Birbiglia does an excellent job of showing just how tight the group is, so when they start to fracture, it feels very impactful. Anyone who’s been part of a good group of friends can relate to the way changes big and small affect the chemistry. As Birbiglia shows, it can often be subtle things that lead to positive or negative effects, especially in a group that likes to crack jokes as often as this group does.
The entire group of actors will be familiar to anyone with a good knowledge of comedy world, and the characters’ stories seem to mirror those of the actors portraying them. That mixture works well for the movie, as each actor seems to draw on personal experience to give the character extra depth. It doesn’t hurt that each of them can easily draw a guffaw.
Don’t Think Twice is a fun, poignant, and sometimes difficult-to-take look at the intricacies of the comedy world and the difficulty of maintaining friendships.