Billy Bonnell - Class Clown
I have long been interested in the link between truly talented people and the motivations behind what drives them. The contrast between dark and light, and the connection between an internal deficit and genuinely unique art. Filling a void. Whether it was Aerosmith writing the best music when high on heroin, or Van Gogh losing touch with reality and mailing his ear to his ex-girlfriend saying "Haven't heard from you in a while!". There is an undeniable bridge between damaged people and earth shattering art. The true human condition must be lived first, in order to be expressed in a pure way.
Billy Bonnell is a standup comic based in Los Angeles. I met Billy through mutual friends in LA four years ago. Billy is a lighthearted guy with a dark past and cynical sense of humor.
Many famous comedians talk about the link between craving laughs and a tortured soul, and I do believe this to be true. Billy's origin story explains his comedy, and is a testament to the ideas and theories expressed by many comics. Billy is a personification of these ideals. He uses his comedy to express his emotions, and in doing so connects deeply to his audience through honesty and trust. This film is an exploration of the grief and sadness behind his art, and how those feelings are expressed in a beautiful way through his craft.
At the age of 10 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at 11 I was mentally hospitalized for 6 months. At 16 I was expelled for acting out, put in a behavioral school, and then hospitalized again. This time in isolation. Being bipolar, and having had a dark past myself, allowed me to use my craft to express my frustrations and feelings to the world. I believe myself to be a better person because of it. That is why I connect so deeply to this story. I hope people can see Billy in this piece (and a bit of myself) and grow from it. I hope they are able to use something they are passionate about to express themselves, and to heal.
So many people to thank. First and foremost, thanks to Billy for letting me tell his story. Including Billy's family, especially his mom Rene Smith for being so open about such a personal story. Huge thanks to Travis Mauck and ENDPAIN for producing this short film. Thanks to American Comedy Co, Westside Comedy Theater, Hyenas Comedy Club and Reds Saloon for being so hospitable.
Big thanks to StommelHaus (Clifton Stommel, Evelyn Stommel) for shooting the key footage and color grading the film. Thanks to Ryan Sterton for shooting a few shows in San Diego. Big thanks to Michael Seifert and Dave Shaw for their original music, sound design and mix. All of you guys make this work possible so thank you so much.