Film Review: For Madmen Only

Del Close

There’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of Del Close. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Whilst he was instrumental in helping make the careers of just about anyone who was anyone from a generation of American comedians, he never achieved fame himself. This is partly down to bad luck but like so many talented people his addictions drove and ruined him. He remains one of the great pioneers of improvisational comedy and left a legacy which will last for decades to come.

Inspired by Close’s semi-autobiographical DC Comics anthology Wasteland, For Madmen Only charts the rise and fall of one of comedy’s unsung heroes. From his ascent to the top at Second City, to a near miss with stardom and finally a self-destructive streak which would eventually prove to be his downfall. Along the way we’re treated to a number of interviews with those who knew him best, including Bob Odenkirk and Adam McKay.

For Madmen Only is a great primer for anyone unaware of Close’s impact and also a peek behind the scenes into his personal life. Heather Ross’s documentary takes the viewer on a rollercoaster ride through the career of a man whose life was never boring. What is clear is that he was a troubled character, spiralling between the highs and lows, but never really finding peace or happiness. For Madmen Only is an entertaining eulogy of a fascinating figure.  

For Madmen Only is coming Apple TV and Altavod in the US on 27 July.

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