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Cult Classic In The Making

'Martin & Orloff,' now on DVD, deserves a second look.

In the vast sea of DVDs, even just DVD comedies, a title like “Martin & Orloff” can easily get lost. Masterminded by the four original members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, the film only played briefly in theaters in a few major cities, but it looms large in the group’s body of work and deserves a following as a cult classic on video.

The comedy of “Martin & Orloff” isn’t in the vein of semi-cult comedy favorites like “A Christmas Story” (in case you can’t place the title, that’s the one with the 10-year-old boy who’s told he can’t have the BB gun because it will put his eye out). It’s more like those two early John Cusack films, “Better Off Dead” and “One Crazy Summer,” in which the one sane and normal guy is beset on all sides by lunatics.

UCB’s Ian Roberts plays Martin, a despondent ad man sent to Dr. Orloff (UCB’s Matt Walsh) after a failed suicide attempt. Certainly a dark premise, right? But everything else that happens is completely comic, however dark that comedy might be.

Where Orloff and the other characters take Martin is a flight into a crazed adventure somehow still plausible enough on some level as reality to work for an audience. The story, by Walsh and Ian and Katie Roberts, seems like something that could have sprung right out of the hyper kinetic mind of Del Close, the groundbreaking improvisational comedian who mentored the UCB. These are three smart and experienced improvisational minds who have learned well how to find the comedy in situations right on the spot in a way that evolves naturally to sketches and full-length screenplays like “Martin & Orloff.”

The movie’s story starts with Orloff hijacking Martin out of the therapy office, first to a softball game and then onto a succession of fun things that are whatever Orloff seems to feel like doing on the spur of the moment -- all the while putting off Martin’s therapy. The refrain of Orloff repeatedly asking Martin “Why did you try to kill yourself?” then cutting him off before he can answer gets funnier every time it happens as the events occurring keep escalating.

Those ‘events’ are provided by an equally skilled supporting cast of well-known and not-so-well-known players like UCB colleagues Amy Poehler and Matt Besser, David Cross, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Andy Richter, Janeane Garofalo, Kim Raver and Jon Benjamin. Benjamin is memorable as Orloff’s buddy Keith, who is the catalyst for a lot of trouble Martin and Orloff get into.

Judged by the criteria of whether a movie bears repeated viewing on DVD, “Martin & Orloff” deserves recommending. There is enough intelligent oddity, reversals of fortune and status in the relationships between the characters in this movie to bring the comedy to a level where it’s funny more than just the first time you see it.




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