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The Great Train Robbery

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Fired! isn’t for those who would rail against the injustices thrust upon them like Michael Moore. This “comumentary” (comedy/documentary) is for those who take the lumps, laugh it off, and proceed to bigger and better.

Shown the Door

Annabelle Gurwitch has a funny little story to tell and a funny way of telling it. Once upon a time she was fired by Woody Allen, professional neurotic and American icon.

As shown in this documentary that at times also playfully works as a mockumentary, Annabelle’s friends try to cheer her up, but to mixed results. The comedian David Cross, for example, sends her a videotaped message that encourages her to find religion and drink and, eventually her life will return to normal. “Normal” being, in Dave’s view, her typical boring self.

Well, Annabelle does pull herself together and she goes on to write a book entitled Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed. This film is basically a companion piece that presents many of Annabelle’s friends recollecting their experiences getting sacked.

For example, comedienne Sarah Silverman found out she had been fired from Saturday Night Live by a fax sent to her agent. Actress Illeana Douglas was fired from a coat-checking job after only four hours. Then there’s poor Andy Borowitz, who was fired as a writer on The Facts of Life because he didn’t “get Tootie” as a character.

Tim Allen, Fred Willard, Andy Dickā€¦ All share their tales in front of the firing squad.

Got the Axe

As for Annabelle, she’s an accomplished writer in her on right, having written for The Los Angeles Times Magazine, All Things Considered, Glamour and Child.

Naturally, depression set in after Woody Allen gave her the pink slip, but she found catharsis in telling her story and hearing the stories of others. That lead to a play, Fired! Stories of Tales Gone Bad, after which more people would come up to Annabelle and share their stories; the book version then followed.

Annabelle summarizes it succinctly by noting that what was tragic ultimately becomes a great story.

Going beyond merely a collection of humorous sob stories, Fired! also provides a look at the “firing business,” which is considered a growth industry these days. Somewhat reminiscent of Roger and Me, Annabelle travels to Lansing, Mich., to interview a handful of the 30,000 people on the firing line in the automotive industry.

But the emphasis here isn’t on cold, cynical interviews and finger-pointing.

Instead, when Annabelle interviews Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, he puts a great spin on things. “Do you know how many people can say they were fired by Woody Allen?” he asks. “I’d love to be fired by Woody Allen!” Reich, it turns out, is actually a funny guy.

Let Go

While Fired! is only a scant 70 minutes in length, it deserves a modest recommendation simply for the spirit it seeks to impart on viewers.

Sure, part of the problem is that people get fired for standing up against dubious management. And, yes, it can be a frustrating, harrowing experience that turns lives upside down.

To that end, Fired! does point out some of the legalese of “at-will” states and employers’ rights in those states, and it offers the analysis that firing people is often used as a tool to appease Wall St., but the real message here is that getting fired just might be a sign from God that you should be doing something else.

The movie offers some good, solid advice for the newly unemployed. For starters, by paying attention to what went wrong in the old job, people might actually learn about what makes them happy and then go out and pursue those opportunities. And, as one “victim” so wisely advises, always keep your resume up to date; “make sure you’re marketable at all times.”

Ultimately, though, as Annabelle notes, she’s inserting humor into what most people consider to be a traumatic experience (losing a job is right up there with divorce, moving, and laser hair removal); she’s not laughing at the fact of being fired, but rather laughing as a way to cope with the feelings.

After all, sometimes laughter is the best medicine.