Early into Broadcast News, James L. Brooks’ meditation on crises of intimacy and media, Aaron demurs to best friend and unrequited love, Jane: “Wouldn’t this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If ‘needy’ were a turn-on?” It’s a good line––ironic, self-loathing, withering––made doubly funny for coming from the mouth of Albert Brooks, the artist perhaps most staunchly associated with the ironic, self-loathing, withering mode.

That Albert Brooks isn’t merely the acerbic nebbish he played in Brooks’ film or his own Modern Romance (or even Finding Nemo) is obvious. Who that person is is the subject of Rob Reiner’s new documentary for HBO, Albert Brooks: Defending My Life. Conceived of as a My Dinner With Andre-esque dialogue between longtime friends, with featuring a chorus of other artists weighing in––among them Jon Stewart, Steven Spielberg, Conan O’Brien, Wanda Sykes, and James L. Brooks himself––the film promises a history and historiography of an artist who saw in both stand-up comedy and film something boldly experimental and baldly speculative: connection in spite of all our crises, laughter in self-defense as much as a design for living.

Ahead of a November 11 premiere on HBO, the trailer has arrived:

Since the late 1960s, Albert Brooks has been a major force in American comedy with his smart, sometimes absurdist, and truly unique sense of humor. From stand-up, to acting, to writing and directing short films, to his seven, iconic, original motion pictures, including Modern Romance, Lost in America, Mother, and more, Brooks has paved the way for future generations and remains a comedic force in a league of his own. With testimonials from some of the brightest comedy talents and serious thinkers, as well as family and friends, Albert Brooks: Defending My Life chronicles Brooks’ very early work all the way to present day. In this deep and personal conversation, Reiner and Brooks explore the origins and evolution of Brooks’ career, the impetus for his creativity, and the impact he has had on the world of comedy.

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