Last night Father John Misty screened his new film Pure Comedy in a small, old cinema in the heart of Los Angeles called Cinefamily. He said the screening was mostly held for him — mentioning several times how self-centered the event seemed, first a film about his record then a sort-of impromptu performance of a few new songs off it — but in reality, the screening was for us, the people who care about Josh Tillman and his work.
In the age of social media oversharing (full disclosure: I live on selfies), perhaps artists forget that sharing themselves with us, intimately or otherwise, is still a gift. Listening to the tracks off Pure Comedy, that’s the thought I kept coming back to: This album is a gift. The film, even moreso, because it lets the listener into the most tender, unassuming part of making a record, the slog of the studio. Since Tillman has opted to leave behind his own social media channels, fans haven’t gotten a lot of these candid, humorous moments from the artist, and his film offers a distillation of his working persona.
If Fear Fun was a commentary on the psych-wonderland that is living and creating in LA, and I Love You, Honeybear was a commentary on the batshit wonder of falling in love, then Pure Comedy is a commentary on the highest questions of existence, the cosmos, and human nature. It comes at a time when many of us are grappling with what humanity’s end goal is, what our moral compass should guide us toward, what will happen when we die, and if that is going to be sometime soon.