Eddie Pepitone is a comic’s comic, a deconstructionist stand-up comic with a scream like no other, who’s willing to put everyone, most often himself, under the microscope. Pepitone gets that treatment in the documentary film “The Bitter Buddha,” directed by Steven Feinartz. It’s an engaging portrait of this man and an instant classic film about comedy that will be fascinating to comedy nerds and mainstream audiences alike. In our review, we said the film is ‘a portrait of an interesting and endearing misanthrope,’ and we got a chance to talk to the man himself on the day of his film’s premiere at the Cinema Village in New York City.
How did you get in touch with “The Bitter Buddha” ‘s director, Steven Feinartz?
He had seen me perform the rants on Marc Maron’s WTF Live Shows, and Steven really liked what I did, and I had just fired my manager and contacted me through Twitter. We met at UCB, and he just proposed to me a documentary on me. And I was like ‘oh yeah!’ I had a really good feeling about Steven so I said, yeah let’s do it.
I doesn’t sound like you had many reservations about agreeing to this project.
I went with my instincts, because – this is really wild – I had been approached by someone else in New York. About 6 months earlier, he wanted to do a documentary on me, and my instincts were: definitely not him.
It’s apparent in the documentary that you’re very in tune with the energy around you in a very innate way.
Well, it’s a huge undertaking. He followed me for close to a year.
What was that like for you letting these people in?
The first couple of times I was filmed, I was like, ‘oh man, I don’t know if I can do this,’ because I felt very conscious of the cameras and I felt uncomfortable. And then, I don’t know what happened, but after the first night, it just felt okay. I think it was just developing a rapport with Steven, and it just felt so fine, and after that first night or two that he filmed me, it was cool and I actually really enjoyed it.
Did you have any input in the shape of the movie?
Not really, it wasn’t in my hands, and I think Steven was kind of figuring it out as we went along, and then, the Gotham show materialized, and my father, and that became the arc for it.
What was it like for you to watch this movie for the first time?
I have gone through a couple of changes. The first time I saw it, I was absolutely thrilled, and then second time I saw it, there things that made me cringe about it, just personal things, like me talking about AA and some of the intimate moments with my dad – I felt like I was too flawed a human being. And then I came to terms with it. It’s been the seven stages of death, I went from anger to acceptance. And I really do like the film, I do think Steven really gets me as far as my stand up, and that’s the most important part of it to me, because that’s my life’s work, that’s what I was talking about at the end of the movie. I really did love the way Steven put it together.
Has your dad seen the movie?
He has not seen it, and that is fine with me. He kind of lives in his own world, he lives in Staten Island. I don’t know if he’s going to see it or not, but, parts of it were kind of rough on him, when I’m talking about him.
What is going to be the life of the movie going forward? What is its role going to be in your comedy and your career?
That’s an interesting question, and Steven has been handling all of this. It’s screening for a week in New York at Cinema Village. I just found out that it’s going to Melbourne, because I’m going to Melbourne to do the Australia Comedy Festival, and then in London, I’m doing the Soho Theater for three weeks in London and I would love for it to play over there. Since it is our show, I think it would be great if I could keep it alive and keep people seeing it, I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but I hope it will as I get more popularity. It’s certainly given me a jolt of popularity and hopefully more and more people will see it. But it is tricky, you know?
I love that your comedy is about comedy itself. It’s about breaking it open and being meta with it.
I love to be deconstructionist with comedy because I spent my life doing it, and I just realized the absurdity of being in front of people, yelling and screaming about stuff, I think it’s hilarious to break it down. It’s hilarious to me, and whenever something’s hilarious to me, it usually resonates with the audience.
Is that something that took you awhile to develop?
It took me a long time, and I’ve been talking about it with people, I think it takes a long time to become comfortable in front of people, and I’ve become confident now, as I’ve done it for more and more years, to talk about just the things I want to talk about, and that’s one of the things I want to talk about. So it’s just a matter of my confidence reaching a certain level.
It seems like it takes someone a long time to gain that confidence.
Many years, many years.