Everybody loves a good fishing story. Fishing with John originated as a television series based on John Lurie hosting angling trips with various artists in 1991. Each episode features a well-known artist fishing with Lurie in a different location, which proves hilarious.

John Lurie, an American musician, painter, actor and director, gathered his close friends for this project. This Criterion Collection DVD contains six episodes documenting “Montauk with Jim Jarmusch”, “Jamaica with Tom Waits”, “Costa Rica with Matt Dillon”, “Maine with Willem Dafoe” and “Thailand with Dennis Hopper part one and two”.

Robb Webb conducts the voice-over narration with the weird, dry zeal of a game show host. For example, “Having destroyed their car, John Lurie and Tom Waits must travel across the island by canoe.” The show revolves around the fact Lurie knows absolutely nothing about fishing. Tom Waits (after becoming sea sick on the boat) asked Lurie, “I’ve gotta ask you something, John. Have you ever caught a fish before? I’ve never actually seen you catch a fish.” Waits and Lurie acted together in the Jarmusch films, Down by Law and Stranger Than Paradise. Lurie told an interviewer that Waits would not speak to him for two years after their expedition in Jamaica.

From Maine to Thailand Lurie coerces these luminaries to cast their lines in the water. Various dialogue and conversations on the boat produce memorable results. Veteran music journalist Michael Azerrad provided an accurate take on the series within this collection’s liner notes: 

“Much of the show’s charm stems from its resemblance to a home movie–or maybe one of those TV blooper shows–with the guests’ charisma and notoriety replacing the familiarity of relatives and friends; that’s why their fishermanly bullshit sessions about things like armless truck drivers and colostomy bags are so entertaining. The show has subtly stacked the deck on several other levels, too: the cinematography is top-notch and the music, by Lurie himself, is superb…”

My favorite episodes include Jarmusch, Waits and Hopper. Yet, the Dillon and Dafoe trips prove almost as insightful and comedic. Just watching Dennis Hopper searching for a giant squid while fishing in exotic Thailand is worth your time. Even if Hopper only catches a stingray…

Take the bait.