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The Bitter Buddha: Eddie Pepitone's Ascent

02/21/2013 07:19 pm ET | Updated Apr 23, 2013

What separates the greats from the rest? What makes somebody a genius? What is it that makes an artist's voice echo throughout the tunnels of time? Arthur Miller said it is "... a fierce moral sensibility, which is unquenchable... anger for how the world is." If that is what it takes, Eddie Pepitone has it. He has that intangible quality. Eddie breathes fire from the stage. This standup is a force of nature. He digs deep into the depths of the collective unconscious, rips out the truth of our modern age and aggressively confronts our complacency. Pepitone is warrior for greater understanding. A hero for the disenchanted. A mythical madman martyr for higher truth. Above all, Eddie Pepitone is fucking funny.

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Courtesy of Bitter Buddha Movie LLC

Steven Feinahrt's thoughtful documentary paints so perfectly a portrait of what we should want in contemporary comedy. The Bitter Buddha reflects the life and work of a true musician of language. The inner-conflict of Eddie Pepitone, the every day struggle to function with some sort of normalcy, consistency, the fight to escape the status quo... that is the key to Pepitone's power.

There is a constant friction within any great entertainer who longs for a collective life's work of substance. And it is that constant friction that makes them so engaging to watch. That friction between art and money, hunger and excess, confidence and fear. Out of that friction, Frank Sinatra sang, Jackson Pollack painted and Eddie Pepitone yells in dark rooms full of strangers to illicit uproarious laughter.

There are comics like Jerry Seinfeld who are good at what they do. Seinfeld crafted his act, did the tonight show, got a sitcom and became immensely successful. And that is what people know and have come to expect in a standup comedian. Then there are comics like Eddie Pepitone who are just freaks of nature. You can easily break down a Seinfeld bit. You can easily imagine Seinfeld writing it and working on it. But with somebody like Pepitone, the whole thing seems like it was spawned from a volcano or thunderstorm or outer space. Even though he writes out his bits and works on his stuff comparable to how Seinfeld does, its much more raw and primal. It's hard to imagine that this stuff was thought about and carefully crafted as opposed to just erupting out of the earth as some accidental magic of being. That is what sets Eddie Pepitone a place apart from most comedians.

2013-02-19-TheBitterBuddha6.jpg Courtesy of Bitter Buddha Movie LLC

Man has two kinds of desires that motivate all action. The first type is physical: food, sleep and sex. The other set of desires is much more abstract. They are metaphysical or spiritual. Things like love, freedom and knowledge fall into the second category. All art is a side effect of these desires. And all the wonders of the world were constructed because of these impulses. Sex is often believed to be the most powerful motivation of mankind. However, there is something much more emotional that rivals sex as the main motivation for all of man's actions. And that is the intense, primal need to impress one's father. Every man knows the need. Even most concepts of God seem to be formed from this idea. The most affecting moments captured in this documentary revolve around the need for paternal approval. It is that solely human need for approval that makes this little movie relatable, poignant and powerful.

There seems to be a hole in life. A hole that people try to fill with love or booze or laughter or music or whatever will suffice from day to day. For some people, that hole is a vast bottomless pit, and they are incapable of living a well-adjusted, emotionally healthy life until something closes the gap. The Bitter Buddha is a rare opportunity to see a human being closing that gap, and achieving something sacred. Certain things in the world are illusive to certain people, and everybody has their own path to the middle... This film is a unique window into one man's path to enlightenment or something like it.

The Bitter Buddha is now available on VOD and iTunes.