friars club comedy film fest
It's a Disaster
Julia Stiles and David Cross in Todd Berger’s It’s a Disaster | Vacationeer Productions

The 2012 Friars Club Comedy Film Festival in New York ended in the wee hours on Sunday, Nov. 4 just in time for everyone to get home before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. The final awards party recognized the favorites of the audience, as well as the juries.

I never get to see nearly as many films as I want during these festivals, but I can always count on good selections at Friars Club’s fest.

My personal award for the strangest film of the festival has to go to The Final Member, a stranger-than-fiction true story about a man in Iceland who has collected penis specimens from every known mammal except homo sapiens. The documentary chronicles his attempt to find a human donor for his penis museum.

Friars Club Comedy Film Festival
Dane Hanson, director of  The Female Orgasm Law accepts the Audience Award for Best Short Film from the festival’s Director of Programming, Eric Johnson | Melanie Votaw Photo

If you think the strangest thing about the movie is a man who collects penises, you’d be wrong. The strangest part was the American man who wanted to donate his beloved member while he’s still alive. The man resembles Will Ferrell and speaks in a monotone voice, making his appearances on screen seem all the world like a Saturday Night Live sketch.

But apparently, his obsessive love for his genitalia is so real that he’d rather see it revered on display in a museum than attached to his body. And that guy proved to be too weird even for the man who collects penises. You can shake your head in disbelief now.

I missed the festival’s opening night film, It’s a Disaster, starring Julia Stiles, David Cross, and America Ferrera, but I heard it was exceptional. (I did see David Cross and America Ferrera at the after party that night.)

Later that same evening, I managed to see Save the Date, an unusual indie romcom by Michael Mohan starring Lizzy Caplan as a woman torn between two men (played by Mark Webber and Geoffrey Arend). What was unusual about it? Well, there were times during the film when I wasn’t sure which guy she would end up with. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not, but it held my interest.

I opted to miss The Bitter Buddha, a documentary about comedian Eddie Pepitone that included his appearance at the screening. Instead, I saw Cinema Six, a small indie comedy by Cole Selix and Mark Potts about a group of misfits working in a movie theater.

Saturday Night Live‘s Bill Hader and real life wife Maggie Carey make cameo appearances that include a sometimes gross but hilarious improvisational riff between them. Another highlight is seeing actor Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure) deliver a shockingly sexual monologue.

Cinema Six
A still from Cinema Six | Singletree Productions
Mark Potts
Mark Potts talks about his film, Cinema Six | Melanie Votaw Photo

Potts flew to New York from Los Angeles, and I caught up with him after the screening. “Cole and I worked at a movie theater back in high school,” Potts said, “and that’s when we came up with the idea.”

Having come from a small town in Oklahoma, Potts says the film is a lot about small town mentality, so the transformation of the characters may seem small to the audience but is actually big for the characters. Potts is also one of the stars, along with John Merriman (who should play Zach Galifianakis’ brother in a movie). Warning: Cinema Six is a very blue film not for the easily offended.

The final film of the festival was Lay the Favorite, a quirky comedy by Stephen Frears about gamblers, starring Rebecca Hall alongside Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta Jones, Joshua Jackson, and Vince Vaughn. I liked this movie a lot and highly recommend it.

The History of Future Folk
Jay Klaitz, actor in The History of Future Folk, accepts one of the film’s awards | Melanie Votaw Photo

The winners of the awards are as follows:

Audience award – Short Film: The Female Orgasm Law
Grand Jury award – Short Film: Local Tourists
Special Jury award – Short Film: Status Update: A Facebook Fairytale
Audience award – Spotlight Film: The Bitter Buddha
Audience award – Feature Film: The History of Future Folk
Grand Jury award – Feature Film: The History of Future Folk

When the filmmakers of The History of Future Folk accepted one of their awards, they said, “Sometimes when you’re two dudes sitting in the basement smoking pot and drinking too much beer, dreams do come true.”

Next year, the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival will be held in April instead of the fall. This is better since there are too many festivals in September and October.

If you’re in New York, check out their roster of films. Their selection committee knows what they’re doing. While the movies are not all of the same quality, I have yet to see a bad film at this fest.


  1. Thanks for the excellent report. I might have to skip Cinema Six, but that one about the penises sounds, um, pretty intriguing. Also It’s a Disaster sounds fantastic. Love all those players.


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