Is there anything as annoying as a door-to-door salesman? A telemarketer may be in the same realm, but there’s something about an unscrupulous salesman standing in your doorway that is just about the most irritating human interaction possible. The desperation of the door-to-door salesman was documented in the great documentary from directors Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, Salesman. Now Salesman is the latest piece of fodder for Documentary Now!, the brilliant comedy series that skewers documentary classics. With this week’s episode Globesman, Documentary Now! once again captures the spirit of its inspiration with an absolutely hilarious take on this tragic documentary.
Salesman followed four door-to-door salesmen as they went from house to house trying to sell ornate copies of the Bible to lower income Catholic families in the late ‘60s. The movie captures the constant rejection and the external pressures from their bosses as they try their damnedest to peddle their $50 Bibles. With Globesman, directors Rhys Thomas and Alex Buono capture the handheld 16mm look of Salesmen as Bill Hader and Fred Armisen headline a quartet of salesmen going door-to-door trying hawk their top shelf globes to suburbanites.
The quartet of salesmen that lead Globesmen consists of Tom O’Halloran (Armisen), “The Possum”; Pete Reynolds (Hader), “The Scrod”; Bob Campbell (Tony Forsmark), “The Lummox”; and Mike Stankowicz (Bill Smitrovich), “Mike Stankowicz.” The four salesmen aren’t just under personal pressure to succeed, they also face harsh consequences from their boss at Amalgamated Globes, Gus McMichaels (Gary Kraus) if they don’t meet their sales quotas. Their job is complicated by a rival atlas salesman who swoops in before they can make their pitch. Tom is the midst of a cold streak, often self-induced by his own tone deaf ramblings towards prospective customers. Pete tries his best to look out for his fellow salesman, but that’s about the extent of his moral code. He has little problem forging the signature of an elderly woman in order to pad his commissions, but whatever it takes for the sale.
This particular episode of Documentary Now! is carried by the performance of Fred Armisen, whose casual demeanor of ruining any potential sale is consistently hilarious. On the verge of closing the deal, Armisen’s Tom O’Halloran will make unfortunate statements that range from anti-Semitism to leering sexual advances towards a household’s teenage daughter. Armisen’s character is one that you want either punch in the face or grab by shoulders and shake the stupid out of his very being. Conversely, Hader is a much more confident salesman, though one without many scruples. Watching these two actors alternate in various aspects of sleaze in the name of a sale makes Globesman one of the funniest episodes of Documentary Now! to date.
Written by co-creator Seth Meyers, Globesman is just the most recent example as to why Documentary Now! is one of the greatest shows currently on television. It seems so effortless the way the crew recreates the aesthetic of these classic documentaries while injecting a fresh sense of humor. The show is full of Saturday Night Live alums, but this series isn’t just a number of sketches stretched out for a half-hour. Documentary Now! continues to astonish with impeccably crafted, genuinely funny homages to some of the most important documentaries in cinema history. Tom O’Halloran might have trouble closing the deal, but I’ll always buy whatever Documentary Now! is selling.
Documentary Now! airs on Wednesdays at 10pm only on IFC.
- Overall Score
Riffing on the 1968 classic documentary Salesmen, Globesman is another stellar episode of Documentary Now!, anchored by the hilarious performance of Fred Armisen as the world’s worst salesman.