Film Review: I Used To Be Funny offsets its humorously-adjacent title with a dark, heartbreaking temperament.

After showcasing her stellar comedic delivery across 2022’s Bodies Bodies Bodies and last year’s Bottoms, Rachel Sennott continues her dominance as one of the industry’s most exciting talents with a more dramatic flex in Ally Pankiw‘s I Used To Be Funny, which offsets its lead’s comedic capabilities and humorously-adjacent title with a dark, heartbreaking temperament.

Flipping between the past and the present – which, admittedly, takes a bit of time to garner which time period is which – Pankiw’s narrative bases itself around Sam (Sennott), a stand-up comedian, who was once a promising and rising talent in the Canadian comedy scene.  An event has taken place in her life, however, that has drastically altered her outlook, and we first meet her in the “after” phase, where she is shrouded in a sea of depression.

She barely eats, she’s hesitant to leave the house, and when she does she’s unable to move ahead with the plans she half-heartedly commits to; we know her emotional and psychological situation is dire when her friend (Sabrina Jalees), and roommate, applauds her for simply taking a shower.

Over the course of its 105 minutes, Pankiw’s script slowly clues us in as to what exactly took place in Sam’s life, and our first nugget of information comes from a news report that tells of a young girl, Brooke (Olga Petsa), and how she’s gone missing.  Brooke’s disappearance and who she is in relation to Sam is dropped in fragments over time, and I Used To Be Funny balances its whodunnit-like mentality with a coming-of-age tale that, initially, builds quite a masterful sense of tension.

What the film ultimately reveals regarding Sam may be triggering to some, and though I Used To Be Funny maintains a mostly sombre personality, Sennott’s default remains in a comedic, yet reflective, space.  By no means does she make light of the material by staying “on” as a comedian – which very much suits her at-times sarcastic character – and her chops as a dramatic performer shouldn’t be undervalued, with the film’s most important scene garnering an effectiveness that speaks to her ability to organically sell her character’s pain.

With Sennott as the headliner, some may be caught off-guard that I Used To Be Funny seldom delights in humorous moments.  Whilst there’s a peppering of genuine wit throughout, Pankiw keeps this as grounded as possible, with any levity coming from her character’s natural instincts and observations.  The seriousness of its narrative keeps this from ever being a pleasant experience, but the pain one can hold onto, and the consuming crippling aftermath, means this drama garners an unfortunate relatability.


I Used To Be Funny is screening in select New York locations from June 7th, 2024, followed by Los Angeles on June 14th and on Digital June 18th.  An Australian release is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.