Derek is Funny: A polite “F*** you” to a world that wants you to conform.
Words by: Abeni Moreno
ROK Production’s new film DEREK IS FUNNY is a dark comedy that embodies a dialogue about life’s choices to never fall into the ridged lines of society. The protagonist DEREK (Duke Williams) has a new corporate job at a late night television program – The Johnny Kale Show. Although the show’s ratings are high, Derek feels unfulfilled – the job is stuffy and keeps his creativity trapped in a box. After a night of self- reflection about his new job, he encounters a homeless man on the subway that changes his life.
After some nudging and convincing from the homeless man, who’s looking for a handout but will settle for a simple laugh, Derek performs a few one-liners on the subway. Living in modern times, his impromptu set is recorded and posted on social media making him an overnight sensation as “The #Subway Comedian”.
His visibility as a comedian skyrockets, and the rush he gets from telling jokes in front of a live audience is irreplaceable. From then on, his choices affect every aspect of his life: personal relationships with his inner circle, tension from his boss and the courage to stand up for who he is.
Derek is Funny is a polite “F*** you” to a world that fails to prioritize the freedom of creativity. Derek dives into the world wide web. He posts videos of his stand up routines and comedic banter with New Yorkers as he travels the New York subway system. He soon finds that there is always someone that resists his edgy material of politics, gender, and race. The type of material that is not far fetched for stand up comedians, but might be too risky for “The #SubwayComedian”. He ends up with a black eye and concerned friends. His brother Shaunstar (Adam- Rashad Glenn) warns him to play it safe and to remain focused on the stale corporate job that forbids any stand up under his contract.
But Derek can’t stop.
The echoes of the laughter brought by observers on the subway taking the time to listen to his one-liners is what makes him feel truly alive. Traveling the subway each day, speaker in hand, he has finally found a creative outlet for his comedy.
When Curtis, the head writer of the The Johnny Kale Show and Derek’s boss, suspends Derek for performing his standup on the subways and posting it on social media—which Curtis claims breaks his contract—Derek doesn’t take it lightly. He hits the subway platforms, along with his best friends, ROB (Jon Clinkinbeard) and ALLEN (Joey Pfeifer), recording his act, and adding to his notoriety.
As Derek’s likes, comments, and fans rise, Johnny Kale directs his head writer, Curtis, and his writing staff, to write a parody of “The #SubwayComedian” for the show and capitalize on Derek’s art without his permission. Curtis and his writers balk at the idea. “What are we desperate?” “I won’t do it!” “Me either!” “This isn’t a request,” replies Curtis.
DEREK IS FUNNY, in addition to being a commentary of living in a world where everyone has an opinion about everything, presents a timely epiphany. People have the right to stand up for their creative passions.
Within the film, Derek gives a speech to the world in response to everyone who tried to limit him, change him, and take control of his creativity. The film challenges the norms and expectations of society.
He pushes back and calls it how he sees it. He is not afraid to stand up for himself and make is own path. And by doing so he literally changes the dynamic of his life putting himself in the driver’s seat.
Directed by Reid Arnstein, Produced by John Andrucci, Story by Reid Arnstein & Inna Tsyrlin, Written by Inna Tysrlin & Joe Cocozzello, Starring Duke Williams, Adam-Rashad Glenn, Tatiana Watson, Jon Clinkenbeard, Joey Pfeifer, Joshua Radford, Drew De Simone