Who knew jokes about proctologists and urologists could be so charming? It's all in the delivery, and writer-producer Donna Kanter's docu short "Lunch" has the goods.
The pic documents a social phenomenon that has been taking place every other Wednesday for 40 years at the Valley Inn in Sherman Oaks. A small group of showbiz scribes, an actor, a comic and sportscaster or two have been gathering there to break bread, swap stories and generally enjoy one another's company, and the hospitality of their longtime waitress, Valerie.
The group includes Shelley Berman, Rocky Kalish, Gary Owens, Paul Pumpian, John Rappaport, Gil Stratton and Kanter's dad, famed multihyphenate Hal Kanter. The 38-minute doc, which screens Friday night at the WGA Theater in BevHills, is a sweet tribute to these industry vets who still have plenty of good lines in them. (Hal and Donna Kanter pictured right)
The project grew out of a Directors Guild of America workshop that Donna Kanter attended with famed docu maker Chuck Workman. It was designed to be "a rewarding exercise...I didn't expect it to be more than an etude," she says.
But she liked what she saw from the exercise and went on to set up a shoot over three different lunch sessions last winter. She funded most of the production herself, with a lot of in-kind help from industry pals.
She learned a few things about her father in being the fly on the wall at his lunches.
"He's quieter than I thought he was," Kanter says. "I never knew how important this kind of camaraderie was important to writers of his generation. These men wake up knowing how to be funny they way other people know how to tie their shoelaces. To watch the ease with which they express that humor was fascinating."
Kanter has a handful of other docu projects in the works and a drama series about femme detectives, "F.L.I.P. Mysteries," bowing on cabler We at almost exactly the same time as the "Lunch" is set to unspool on Friday night. And she's already got an idea for a "Lunch" follow. She'll bring her camera along to the other lunch date that her father does every other Wednesday with regulars that include Arthur Hiller, Carl Reiner, Monty Hall and Sid Caesar.