There is something genuinely heartfelt about I’m ‘George Lucas’: A Connor Ratliff Story. Directed by Ryan Jacobi, the documentary tells the story of New York-based comedian Connor Ratliff and his long tenure playing “George Lucas” on The George Lucas Talk Show, an improvised, monthly comedy series designed as a late-night panel talk show in which real-life guests act as though they are conversing with the real George Lucas. The majority of performances were staged at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. The show also gained a brand-new, expanded audience over Zoom during the pandemic.

We follow Ratliff through his routines preparing for each show, explaining his process along the way. Collaborators like Griffin Newman (who plays “Watto”) and Patrick Cotnoir (who produces the show) try explaining Ratliff to the viewer. The overall explanation seems to be that there is not much of an explanation. He’s presented as a mercurial sort with a passion for the craft of comedy. Soft-spoken mostly, excited by creative ideas always. He comes alive most when talking through a bit he’s just cracked or a thought a collaborator has for a show that might work really well. There’s an extended scene of Ratliff discussing why it’s so funny and perfect that upcoming guest Mo Rocca’s name rhymes with Chewbacca. It’s, frankly, endearing.

Ratliff gained a wider audience when his podcast Dead Eyes took off. That project revolved around a life-changing event that happened to Ratliff after he had been cast in HBO’s mini-series Band of Brothers. He was fired because the Tom Hanks said the young actor had “dead eyes.” This incident caused Ratliff to retreat from his dream of becoming a working actor, and––according to more than one talking head in this documentary––is something that still sticks with him to this day.

Where I’m ‘George Lucas’: A Connor Ratliff Story really excels is in its colloquial examination of why some people want to make other people laugh, and why others want to create artistic things from their own inspiration. It’s something Ratliff himself seems preoccupied about, here set against the context of The George Lucas Talk Show. “Why do I care if a bunch of strangers like a show that I do?” he asks. There’s both surprise and satisfaction at the fact that he’s been performing the show for nearly a decade. There’s also awareness of the limited audience that often comes with a specific project. “It’s okay for some things to be smaller,” Ratliff says at one point. It’s a modest, earnest sentiment that reflects the tone of the film as a whole.

This includes a quite wholesome, bittersweet section wherein Ratliff returns to his hometown. A lovely interview with his parents suggests they too are still trying to make complete sense of their son’s ultimate creative pursuits. That said: Ratliff’s dad was a weatherman who put his own money and resources into locally televised shows of his own, so the inception of the ambition appears quite obvious. Ultimately this is a loving portrait of a creative soul that less tries to understand him than celebrate. And by that measure it’s a worthy document.

I’m ‘George Lucas’: A Connor Ratliff Story premiered at Slamdance Film Festival and screens at Make Believe Seattle on March 23.

Grade: B

No more articles