If you missed the point with The Amazing Johnathan Documentary, then you might not appreciate the latest film by Benjamin Berman, which takes on an issue concerning the COVID-19 pandemic for satiric purposes. The short documentary, titled The Follow-Up in reference to it being the follow-up to the Amazing Johnathan feature, starts off with the director in a slump both because of a creative block and especially because of current events. He embarks on a personal, screen-sharing “desktop documentary” or “screen film” as he Googles for help and then begins paying various D-list celebrities for advice, via Cameo.
How much any of the participants are in on the joke of the film is unclear, but I assume they all at least had to give consent for the clips to be included in The Follow-Up. Even though, in this context, most of them come off badly, both in appearance and in what they have to say. Sometimes their tips on fighting the novel coronavirus are contradicted through reports showcased in the montage. Others are just ridiculous on their own regardless of any need for debunking their beliefs, opinions or hearsay rumors. And many of them wish Berman a happy birthday, which is funny because Berman’s birthday isn’t until late August.
While it’s probably hard for some viewers to take such mordant content during these times, The Follow-Up has an important point to make, and doing so seriously isn’t working enough. These D-list celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan, Richard Karn, Gary Busey, and Dog the Bounty Hunter, are not to be turned to for expertise on medical crises any more than the D-list reality show host who becomes President of the United States should. The sad truth is that people do look to famous people more than doctors and other experts, and the sadder truth is that these people will take the paycheck and attempt to provide answers.
I love that The Follow-Up goes to other places of dry comedy, like the added layer of a computer virus, reminding us that this film is coming from a place of humor, even if it’s not a sense of humor that lands with everyone. I can definitely sell this to people as a comedic documentary more than I could with The Amazing Johnathan Documentary, which was too subtle and dry and went over most viewers and critics’ heads apparently. Of course, that feature does also offer the balance of substance that could play straight, as well. If watched straight, The Follow-Up is just plain scary. Well, maybe that’s effective, too.
Watch The Follow-Up below via Short of the Week and Vimeo and go back and check out The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (or re-watch it thinking more of this tone) on Hulu.