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Irwin & Fran cover photo

Irwin & Fran 2015

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by TDC Entertainment, 220 East 23rd St., Suite 405, New York, NY 10010
Produced by Jordan Stone
Directed by Jordan Stone
DVD , color, 88 min.

General Adult
Activism, Aging, Biography, Careers, Censorship, Discrimination, Humor, Popular Culture

Date Entered: 12/10/2015

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Billed as “the world’s foremost authority,” 101 year old Professor Irwin Corey has a decade-spanning career as a comedian and activist. Introducing his unique brand of humor in the 1950s, he appeared in early television variety shows, as well as nightclubs and occasional films. Corey is best-known for his disheveled appearance and random, nonsensical, but often erudite comments. His leftist political views (as well as those of Fran, his wife for 70 years) frequently got him into trouble with network executives and broadcasters, who effectively barred him from wider exposure and audiences. His U.S. Presidential campaign in 1960 on the Playboy ticket predates that of other comedians.

Narrated by actress Susan Sarandon, the film follows Corey through a typical day of selling half-price newspapers to his Manhattan neighbors, kibitzing with chain-smoking but largely silent Fran, and reminiscing about career highpoints. Archival TV and film footage is interwoven throughout. A long somewhat confusing interview with fellow comedian Dick Gregory, who got his start performing in previously segregated nightclubs thanks to Corey, is included. While the TV clips and other cultural references are enjoyable, there is a rambling, disjointed aspect to the film that makes it difficult to follow. DVD bonus features include a 100 year tribute to Corey at the Friar’s comedy club and out-takes from the Dick Gregory interview.