It was 2009 when the paths of filmmaker Roy Tighe and Canadian stand-up comic Richard Glen Lett would cross. Of course, Tighe had heard of Lett. You really couldn't have been aware of Canadian comedy without also being aware of Lett, a relentlessly brash comic with a rather brutal reputation both on and offstage. Originally meeting to discuss a one-man show that Lett was planning, the two would get together at a comedy club but the evening would quickly go awry after Lett's verbal altercation with the owner and subsequent removal, along with Tighe, from the club.
Left outside on a rainy Vancouver night, Lett's creative genius would light a spark inside genius as he performed one of his poetry slams for the unsuspecting pedestrians that surrounded him.
Tighe saw something special that night. It was something worth following, a following that would end up taking the better part of seven years. It was also a following that would document, painfully and intimately, the downward spiral of Lett as addiction took hold of his life and his brash, meanspirited persona, long an intentional act, would become an identity that would eventually lead to his being kicked out of nightclub after nightclub, evicted from his home, estranged from his teenage daughter, and to eventually disappear from it all.
Until he came back.
Picked up by indie comedy distributor Comedy Dynamics, Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story picked up the Best Feature Doc prize at the 2018 Studio City Film Festival and spent its time on the indie fest circuit before being picked up by Comedy Dynamics for a streaming/VOD release. The film is completely and utterly captivating, Tighe's downward spiral often difficult to watch even before we completely realize he's in the midst of a downward spiral. Lett's often brutal truth-telling is at times uncomfortable to watch, though there's an undeniable poetry to Lett that keeps us watching even when it's painful. Lett never really became a household name, though he was a comic's comic, respected for his craft and a frequent headliner at Canada's Yuk Yuk comedy clubs. In the mid-90's, Lett was one of the subjects of the CBC documentary series Road Warriors and he's an award-winning playwright, poet, and even received a rare standing ovation at the London Poetry Slam for his one-man show Sober But Never Clean.
It's hard not to come away from Never Be Done without some degree of hard-earned admiration for both Lett and Tighe. As relentlessly, there's that word again, unlikable as Lett tries to be there's something absolutely engaging about the guy whether it's watching him brilliantly weave together poetry and comedy or watching him fumble his way toward something resembling parenting. Even when he's being a complete a**hole, you know there's something special going on here.
The same is true, however, with Tighe. It could have been easy, even understandable, if Tighe had simply wrapped up filming as Lett's downward spiral sped up and it became obvious that the intended project had turned into something else. Tighe seemingly recognized something, maybe it was artistic integrity or human decency or simply an awareness of the bigger picture but Tighe grasped onto something else that didn't really begin to come to life until Lett resurfaced possessing an awkward relationship with sobriety and a better relationship with himself and the world around him.
Somehow, even when it's minute-by-minute or day-by-day, Lett had come back and dropped himself into the very same environment that it could be said wrecked him.
Maybe it did. Maybe it didn't. Maybe it was something else.
Regardless, Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story is a special film and an unforgettably raw and honest film that is simultaneously unflinching and utterly beautiful. Available now on your usual streaming outlets, Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story is a documentary not to be missed.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic