Never before has there been such a tangible urgency to viral online videos featuring dancing old men – ‘Mattress Men’, one of the most hilarious and endearing documentaries to premiere at Hot Docs this year, shows us that the infectious humor of these videos is actually an effective tool that can be used to fight unemployment and the spectre of economic ruin.
Interview with Mattress Mick and the Gang
Directed by Colm Quinn and featuring Michael ‘Mattress Mick’ Flynn, Brian ‘The Mattress Man’ Traynor and filmmaker Paul Kelly, ‘Mattress Men’ presents a group of Irish men who are defeated by the economic recession. Armed only with a stubborn refusal to accede to defeat and an (almost) total lack of propriety, Paul creates the Mattress Man persona for Michael’s mattress business. After a couple of endearingly homemade videos that use green screen to show the Mattress Man’s insane antics, the group becomes a viral sensation: the Mattress Man becomes a well-known haunt of Dublin and even becomes a star of his own, lovably derranged music video.
While ‘Mattress Men’ is overtly hilarious (seeing Brian act as a philosophizing, anthropomorphic mattress is a particular treat), Quinn doesn’t hesitate to show us the tangible economic pressures that motivate the group. The documentary shows us that the lighthearted worldview infecting the Mattress Man videos is a choice made in the face of nonexistent job prospects and unemployment. It is at this juncture, between comedy and tragedy, that ‘Mattress Men’ triumphs, showing us that positivity is as much of a choice in worldview as it is an effect of personal prosperity. Sometimes, when you are left with nothing, a smiling refusal to accept your circumstances can be enough to change them.