Johnny Physical Lives

Jonathan Neuman was a charismatic Tufts University undergraduate fronting a roaring campus garage band, the Physicals, when, in 2000, he was diagnosed with leukemia. His life was cut short two years later. Johnny Physical Lives is a beautiful documentary about the musician’s final years directed by Jonathan’s brother Joshua Neuman—former editor of Heeb magazine and longtime Lowbrow friend. The film is presented as a love letter to and celebration of its subject and his more brazen rock & roll alter-ego, Johnny Physical, who continued to thrive as he was fighting cancer, even performing a bad-ass acoustic set at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. The movie is heartbreaking but never maudlin, mixing animation with archival footage—including a hospital-bed interview filmed by Albert Maysles, King of the Documentarians. At 22 minutes, this is a short film, one minute for each of its subject’s years; yet by its end, you feel like you knew him all his life. “Jonathan Neuman died at the age of 22,” the director’s final voiceover concludes. “But Johnny Physical will live forever.”

Those in New York are encouraged to catch Johnny Physical Lives’s local premiere on Monday, November 14 at the IFC Center, where it is screening as part of Doc NYC’s Shorts: L-O-V-E program. For more information, go to