BY DANITA STEINBERG
Quality Balls is one of those very specific documentaries that will only appeal to a small group of people. I’ve loved stand-up comedy for as long as I can remember, so naturally, a film about David Steinberg, one of Canada’s great comedians, is something I’d enjoy. And if you’re a comedy fan, you will probably enjoy it, too.
That being said, Quality Balls is more of a David Steinberg shrine than it is anything else. Everyone interviewed in the film gushes about him, and I do mean gushes. Even Steinberg gushes about himself. It all gets to be a little nauseating. It’s unfortunate because there are some fantastic stories about Johnny Carson, Groucho Marx, Burt Reynolds and Bea Arthur (to name a few) that are undermined by everyone’s need to talk about how great Steinberg is in these stories. I realize he is the subject, but just the fact that he has these insider stories to begin with is more than enough testament to his awesomeness and likeability. The entire thing (excluding the interviews with Steinberg himself) feels too much like a eulogy.
On a more positive note, for all of us comedy nerds, there is some great Second City footage from 1960s Chicago. There is also a lot of Johnny Carson footage, which left me feeling oh-so-nostalgic (despite not ever watching Carson while he was actually on the air). The two of them had such an easy and entertaining rapport. It’s a joy to watch. And, of course, there are rarely seen clips of Steinberg’s stand-up comedy days. For me, this is the most interesting because you can see him paving the way for comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Mahr and Jon Stewart. Interviews with people like Larry Charles, Dave Foley, Larry David and Norm MacDonald are really telling as to just how much influence Steinberg has had on the comedy world.
Quality Balls isn’t really the film to turn to if you want an inside look at the art of stand-up, or the art of directing comedy, or the art of performing–all of which things Steinberg has mastered. However, if you want to watch Steinberg tell some jokes, see some old footage of him and his famous pals, and hear some entertaining interviews, this is the documentary for you.
Danita loves musicals, Bette Midler, sandwiches, Real Housewives, great horror films, and The Golden Girls. She’s a barista, bookworm, cinephile, and celebrity stalker. If she’s at home, she’s in her pajamas. Follow her on Twitter @danita_35.