Punching the Clown movie synopsis - Henry Phillips, a modern day troubadour, is living out of his car on a perpetual tour of small time comedy and music clubs around the country. After one hell gig too many in the Arizona desert, he decides to push on through to LA and crash on his brother Matt's couch.
In LA, he needs to find work fast. Matt, himself a struggling actor who barely makes ends meet dressing up as Batman for children’s birthday parties, hooks Henry up with his sweet, eager but inept manager, Ellen. The first gig Ellen gets Henry is an open mic night at the Espresso Yourself Café. No money in it, not the best place for exposure either. It’s not looking good, though Henry does a great show, and as an added bonus meets the cool barista, Becca. But the overeducated, sardonic songsmith turns into a stammering weirdo anytime an attractive young woman comes within chatting distance, so Becca doesn’t know what to think of him.
At least Ellen still believes in Henry, and she’s got ideas. She gets Henry to play at a swanky soiree in the Hollywood Hills. But Ellen’s guerilla booking tactics apparently did not include clearing Henry’s performance with the host, who shuts Henry down before he has a chance to sing a whole song. Just as Henry thinks his luck is running out, he gets an unexpected break through a very fortuitous set of circumstances involving an inappropriately used skin product and a chance encounter with a pop star. As a result, Fabian Mann, a cocky young A&R executive for an indie record label, X-Company Records, is led to believe Henry has friends in high places. Fabian offers Henry a record deal. And back at the Espresso Yourself Café, Joel, the friendly and paternal owner, gives Henry some hints on how to talk to Becca without making an ass of himself.
Things should be looking up for Henry, but it all backfires in flash. Henry only gets $2,500 instead of the $50,000 dollars Fabian had promised. Then his brother tells him he is finally giving up on his Hollywood dream, so Henry’s lost his crash pad. Further woes ensue when his misguided approach to Becca is so fundamentally misconstrued that she quits her job on the spot, insulting Henry on the way out. Last, but definitely not least, a bizarre rumor has been spreading about Henry, who finds that there is such a thing as bad P.R. after all. X-Company Records shelves his CD before even recording it, although as per the contract Henry signed with them, they retain the rights to his music.
Henry’s lost everything he came to LA to find, but perhaps a troubadour’s real home is on the road. Six months later, Becca is driving through an Oregon town on her way to a new job and notices Henry's name misspelled on the marquee of a local dive. She goes in. He’s barely making ends meet but he’s performing. He’s finally happy or at least, working on it. And he’s got new songs. The lyrics seem strangely inspired by his recent experiences. And, Becca stays for the show.
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