He got his start in a South Dakota brothel doing Johnny Cash covers. Strumming a guitar and telling jokes, he later found his way to over 350 TV appearances, bits in films from “Annie Hall” to “Up in Smoke,” casino gigs in Vegas, and even an appearance at Carnegie Hall. Oh, and he and Steve Martin used to be roommates.
“He’s one of those guys that would go up and other comics would gather in the back of the room to watch,” David Letterman says. “And he killed!”
Thanks to two Dallas-Fort Worth production companies, that long and comically winding road is now being relived in the documentary “Show Business Is My Life, But I Can’t Prove It: A Film About Gary Mule Deer.”
Available on all major streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Google Play, since August 1, the feature-length doc was produced by Dallas’ DHD Films and Fort Worth’s Red Entertainment.
What do Alice Cooper, Amy Grant, Carrot Top, and Johnny Mathis have in common? They’re all in this doc
Featuring a long list of top comedy icons—including Jay Leno, David Letterman, Steve Martin, and Conan O’Brien—the documentary traces the life journey of 83-year-old comedian Gary Mule Deer, whose 60-year comedy career has notched everything from being a cast member of “Hee Haw” to a judge on “The Gong Show” to becoming one of the most-played comedians on the Clean Comedy Channels of both Sirius and XM Satellite Radio.
Just how wide-ranging has Mule Deer’s life been? Besides those famous comic talk show hosts, the documentary also has both Alice Cooper and Amy Grant sharing their memories of him. Other on-screen interviewees include Carrot Top, Vince Gill, Jimmie Walker, Paul Shaffer, Kevin Nealon, Johnny Mathis, and lots more.
“The film is an inspiration to young comics everywhere,” Leno has said of the documentary. “We all have an affinity for Gary because he’s what we all wanted to be.”
Strong Texas ties
Gary Mule Deer’s life and career may be incredibly wide-ranging, but the documentary itself has strong Dallas and Texas ties.
Directed by G.B. Shannon, it was produced by brothers Hussain Manjee and Shezad Manjee of DHD Films and Heather Wilk and Red Sanders of Red Entertainment, Via Productions, and Lowbrow Films.
Dallas-based DHD Films and Fort Worth-based Red Entertainment, known for their award-winning work ranging from corporate narratives to cinematic features, represent filmmaking in North Texas.
“This film is further proof that Texas has a bright future in bringing stories that move audiences to the big screens,” DHD Films co-founder and creative director Shezad Manjee said in a statement. “And for the first time in recent history, we have the legislative support with the passing of the $200 million Texas Films Incentive.”
“Show Business Is My Life, But I Can’t Prove It” had its grand premiere at the Nashville Film Festival in 2022. Since then, it’s been screened at the Austin Film Festiveal, won the Audience Award at the Indie Memphis Film Festival and snagged Best Documentary honors at the Oxford Film Festival.
Locally, the film as part of the 2022 Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth. Gary Mule Deer himself was in attendance at the screening, DHD Films said.
Red Sanders, film producer and president of Red Productions, says working on the project made him rethink the definition of success.
“So often we, as Americans, look at the big A-list celebrity names as like they’ve really done it,” Sanders said in a statement. “But it was interesting to see someone who didn’t have the true limelight of an A-list celebrity but still is able to look back on his career, where he got, what he’s done, and be happy.”
“And then on the flip side, how some of these A-list celebrities look at Gary and go, ‘Man, he’s doing what we always wanted to do,'” Sanders added.
The story was updated on August 9, 2023, to clarify screening dates. The film was screened last year at the Lone Star Film Festival. It’s not scheduled for a re-screen at this year’s festival on November 12.
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.