For more than 50 years, Robert Klein has been entertaining audiences on stage and screen with his unique mix of music and comedy, earning his reputation as a stand-up comic by being the first to have an HBO special way back in 1975. He would go on to domany more HBO specials over the course of 35 years.
“Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg,” a new documentary directed by New York film critic Marshall Fine (a colleague and friend of this writer), explores every aspect of Klein’s life and career while following him around during his normal day-to-day routine.
“It’s a very unusual experience watching it,” Klein says about the film, which takes its title from a longtime favorite bit in his act. “I thought it was really comprehensive in that I’ve been in this business so long. It was a retrospective of a comedic life and me living as an old Jew in Briarcliff.”
Now 74 years old, Klein still performs regularly, and Fine’s film captures how he’s always on and making jokes to whomever he encounters during his day.
“As several people note, Robert draws from his everyday experience for his material,” Fine explains. “What better way to illustrate that than to see what that’s like? I also wanted to show how funny he was off the cuff in daily life.”
It also includes interviews with an impressive array of comics, from Jerry Seinfeld to Billy Crystal to Jay Leno, all of whom were happy to talk about the comedian who had such a big influence and impact on them and their craft. In the film, Klein also talks about the comedians that inspired him — Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Winters and Richard Pryor.
While Klein’s doc does cover a lot of ground, his thoughts on it are the same as anything else he does.
“What I really wanted it to be was funny,” he says. “That was the important thing.”