Though Gregori Viens’ Punching Henry is a sequel to his 2009 Punching a Clown, you don’t have to have seen Clown to enjoy Henry, which is fortunate since you almost certainly didn’t see it. Told in flashback during an interview with podcaster Sharon Levine (Sarah Silverman), Punching Henry continues the hard-luck adventures of touring comedy songwriter Henry Phillips, who plays himself.
He’s lured back to Los Angeles to meet a bigwig television producer (J.K. Simmons), who’s interested in a developing a reality series around Henry, and there his troubles begin — or, rather, continue, since his luck has always been bad, and now his mishaps are bringing him viral stardom for all the wrong reasons. This also ties into the theme of entitled audiences who believe performers are obligated to produce just what the individual consumer wants to see right now — especially that one thing they did before — and whether it’s better to fail at what you love than to be a success at something you hate.
The shambling, episodic Punching Henry features a fantastic supporting cast of comedians — Paul F. Tompkins and Patton Oswalt are notable in their absence — and Phillips’ low-key yet undeniable charisma keeps it from landing squarely in the Sad Bastard genre it otherwise circles, as does the fact that it’s genuinely funny.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theatre