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Comedians stand up for 'Bitter Buddha' Eddie Pepitone at Echoplex

'An Evening With the Bitter Buddha,' featuring comedians like Maria Bamford and Andy Kindler, aims to raise funds for Steven Feinartz's documentary of the cult comic.

June 22, 2012|By Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times

He's been called "the Charles Bukowski of comedy," as well as a pot-bellied "bitter Buddha" at the epicenter of the alternative comedy world.

Cult comic Eddie Pepitone has been performing his spontaneous, rant-heavy brand of humor onstage for more than 30 years, including regular appearances on "Conan" and "The Sarah Silverman Program." Over the decades, the "comic's comic," as he's often called, has inspired the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron and Silverman — as well as a generation of newcomers through his Twitter feed (@eddiepepitone) and by co-hosting "The Long Shot" podcast with Sean Conroy, Amber Kenny and Jamie Flam.

[For the record, 8:55 a.m., June 22: an earlier version of this article listed Marc Maron as playing the 'Bitter Buddha' live event on Tuesday, but he is not appearing.]

But Pepitone has never quite broken through to the mainstream himself. The big Comedy Central special still eludes him.

The cranky, Brooklyn-born comic is now the subject of filmmaker Steven Feinartz's documentary, "The Bitter Buddha," which debuted at Just For Laughs Chicago last week. The film chronicles Pepitone's circuitous journey as something of a comedic antihero through the world of stand-up and around the fringes of Hollywood. And it poignantly shows Pepitone confronting an array of personal demons, both professional and personal.

There's only one problem: The film has run out of funding.

Which leads us to a raucous evening of comedy on Tuesday at the Echoplex in Echo Park. The benefit show, "An Evening With the Bitter Buddha," aims to raise finishing funds for the film's distribution.

"We didn't do the Kickstarter model for this — we figured a better way would be to put out a live event or two, because there are so many comedians that have been so helpful through the making of this film," says Feinartz. "And the best thing to do would be to give back to the comedy community.

"Eddie's never really had the success that a lot of his peers have had," Feinartz adds, "but he's considered, by many, to be one of the funniest comedians working today."

It's a rock star stand-up showcase that includes Maria Bamford, Andy Kindler, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Rob Delaney, Greg Fitzsimmons, Jen Kirkman, Ron Lynch and Conroy. Pepitone will perform as well. The vibe, say event organizers, is very much a celebration of both Pepitone and the film; clips from the documentary will be shown and live music is planned.

The film itself is far more than a portrait of Pepitone, adds one event organizer, HotHouse Productions' David Jargowsky. It's also "a snapshot of the comedy scene in America at the given time," he says. "Eddie speaks to the convergence of traditional comedy and the evolving definition of alternative comedy. How alternative comedy is also now what's playing at the big comedy clubs."

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