Albert Brooks returns as Albert Brooks in an amusing tale that finds him working for the United States government in an effort to better understand the Muslim people by discovering what makes them laugh. The assignment requires him to spend one month in India and Pakistan to write a 500-page report about his findings. He isn’t too keen on the idea until he is told he’ll be awarded a Medal of Freedom.
Two government agents and an Indian woman named Maya, played by the gorgeous Sheetal Sheth, assist Brooks. His research takes him to New Dehli, the Al Jezeera network and a secret crossing of the Pakistani border. The latter two destinations pique the interest of both governments and make them very suspicious. Very few people stop, let alone respond when stopped by Brooks on the street. Some don’t speak English and one gentleman doesn’t want anything to do with the U.S. government.
Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay and directed, finds comedy in the Muslim world and is able to do it without being crude or mean-spirited at the Indians’ or Pakistanis’ expense. He plays the same character he always plays, slightly neurotic and self-involved, which is fine by me because I find his observations and his frustrated, sarcastic asides funny. If you didn’t like him or his humor in films like Defending Your Life or Lost in America, you aren’t going to enjoy it now, so don’t bother.
He makes fun of himself and Hollywood. Most notably in a scene with Penny Marshall in which he auditions for a remake of Harvey that he is completely wrong for since he isn’t the new Jimmy Stewart. The remake of The In-Laws is slighted more than once and I would imagine rightfully so, though I never saw it.
A bonus for Brooks’ fans is a sequence where he performs bits from his old stand-up act. When he discovers there are no comedy clubs in India and Pakistan, which were supposed to provide a major source of his research, he decides to put on The Big Show. He performs his ventriloquist routine and his improv routine, but how will the audience react when they don’t know what Brooks is parodying? I found the scenes hysterical, especially the improv scene where he doesn’t care for the suggestions the audience gives him.
The film and Brooks’ assignment end abruptly and neatly, which most will find as a flaw, but many comedies wrap up quickly. I got plenty of laughs, so I didn’t mind, although it would have been better for the film to have a funny and memorable climax. Although Looking for Comedy… won’t be considered one of his classics, I chuckled throughout the entire film and if you are an Albert Brooks fan, you should as well.