Warning: This review will contain words, phrases and ideas that many may find offensive. Reader discretion is advised.
Politically incorrect comedy is pretty hard to pull off in today's touchy feely culture. Ethnic humor, insults, scatological gross outs and hidden camera pranks reek of the most routine of attempted wit. When it's done well, like in Jackass or Viva La Bam, it shines like a beacon beyond all the other rip-off or merely routine garbage. And only one series has made a mainstream success out of this sort of satirical approach, and even then, many see South Park as a collection of dirty jokes before they even recognize the political or sociological aspects.
For The DAMN! Show, a deranged cornucopia of sketch comedy created by a talented troupe out of Athens, Georgia, the struggle is even more monumental. Hoping to meld a kind of outsider motif to their fart and feces jokes, this is wit aimed at anarchy, not subtlety. Believing that there is no theme too taboo, too socially unacceptable to mine and make fun of, this field day to offensiveness wants to be an anecdote to all the warm and fuzzy, observational dreck that seems to symbolize present, post-modern comedy. They aren't afraid to take on any subject matter, from the sexual to the schizophrenic.
Previously available in separate volumes, StudioWorks Entertainment has compiled both of The DAMN! Show releases and, along with a few fun bells and whistles, dolls up this decidedly homemade hoedown for a mass-market release. More or less a collection of pranks, skits, man on the street interviews and "found" foolishness, The DAMN! Show is apparently a huge favorite on college campuses around the country. And you too may enjoy it, though you won't feel clean afterwards. This is farce riddled with as many STDs and potential lawsuits as it is filled with funny stuff.
Anyone who has seen or listened to Howard Stern is probably aware of Yucko the Clown. This ridiculously racist, unapologetically profane harlequin of hate is a master of schizophrenic comedy – sometimes he's funny, sometimes he's forced. Usually spewing a non-stop tirade of prejudice and puke, he certainly lives up to the oft-held belief that clowns are sick, perverted degenerates behind all their horrifying greasepaint. As part of The DAMN! Show, Yucko is indeed a highlight, a confrontational, in your face street performer making the everyday lives of big city folk (New York, New Orleans) flat-out miserable. Buried within the 36 skits offered here, our jaundiced jester goes berserk, doing everything and anything he can to get a rise out of the community. One memorable moment has him screaming behind a street preacher "Listen UP! You want to go to HELL? Worship Jesus you RETARDS!" Yucko, a.k.a. Roger Black, is the most consistent comic voice in The DAMN! Show. For the most part, he is surrounded by associates still getting comfortable with their toilet bowl buffoonery.
The rest of The DAMN! Show cast includes Zac Pope, Waco (famous for his inbred redneck trailer trash character Fat-N-Nasty, aka, Bobby Possumcods) John Radcliff, Greg Epps (taking the concept of the "token" black member to dizzying heights), and Nathan Wright. More or less looking like a cable access show gone legit, a typical DAMN! Show installment will have a homeless man babbling incoherently, followed by some Yucko insults, all tied together with short skits dealing with sex, race or...sex and race. This is short attention span theater, with nothing lasting longer than four or five minutes. Indeed, most pieces are only a few subversive seconds long. This means that The DAMN! Show gets a lot of quick, in and out bang for its buck. The downside is that, when something fails in only 45 seconds, you have to wonder about the legitimacy of the premise and the professionalism of the writing.
On this StudioWorks DVD, we are treated to over 36 bits. Individually, we see the following:
Crapple – take off on Snapple ads/ Yucko: Live in New York – Self-explanatory/ Fun at The DAMN! Show Studios – the gang greets an unsuspecting deliveryman, in the nude!/ The Gooks of Hazzard, Pt. 1 – just like it sounds, two Korean guys replace the Dukes/ Jimmy Gibberish – the schizophrenic bum speaks/ The Gooks of Hazzard, Pt. 2/ How to Dance Like a White Guy – Ad parody/ Fun at The DAMN! Show Studios 2 – same as before/ What Would a Bum Do For a Buck? – We discover the answer, sort of/ Crapple 2/ Inebriated the Koala – our drunken animal from Downunder goes shopping for beer/ Construction Workers Gone Wild – Ad Parody/ The Osbournes: Pt. 1 – Parody/ Country Cock – Ad Parody/ The Osbournes: Pt. 2 – Parody/ A Special Holiday Message from Santa Claus/ Yucko: Live from Bourbon Street – Self-explanatory/ Regina Returns Maxi-pads: Pt 1 – a redneck woman tries to return "defective" feminine products/ Rack 'Em Rack Willie – another schizophrenic bum speaks/ Mad Cow – a special report on the epidemic
Fun at the Drive Thru Window – a member of the cast pretends to abuse his "kids"/ The Racist Mr. Ed – a talking horse whose full of hate/ Yucko: Drunk on Bourbon Street – Self-explanatory/ Sorority Rush 2000 – The DAMN! Show attends the proceedings/ Blind Date with a Crackwhore – Parody of the popular dating show/ Jimmy Gibberish: The National Anthem – the schizophrenic bum sings/ Regina Returns Maxi-pads: Pt 2/ Inebriated the Koala – the Aussie asshole goes to church/ A Cherokee Christmas – our pissed off Santa celebrates the holidays/ Jimmy Gibberish: The Pledge of Allegiance – the schizophrenic bum recites/ Road Head – a PSA about the dangers of fellatio in traffic/ Yucko: Live at the Sundance Film Festival – Self-explanatory/ Hump Dog – a canine doing what horny curs do best/ Zanadin – ad parody/ Clay Porn – A set of Play-Do muppets do the nasty/ Yucko the Clown Gets His Ass Kicked – Self-explanatory/ Closing Credits/ Bloopers
In general, The DAMN! Show DVD is a very mixed bag, but in a good way. It's kind of like getting a box of decent movie theater popcorn, only to find just a few used Band-Aids and a hairball at the bottom. Many of the moments here are laugh out loud funny, but you won't feel too good, or too sanitary, about your chuckling. The DAMN! Show is all about controversy and confrontation, and provokes far too many giggles based in uneasiness instead of outright wit. Certainly, when the only African American cast member, Greg Epps, halts a writers' meeting to complain about the amount of black jokes (only to them pick up a huge slice of watermelon and dive in) we know that The DAMN! Show understands the fertile, fetid ground it is treading on. But there is not enough of that winking self-knowledge. "The Gooks of Hazzard" tries to pawn off Asians telling Chinese and Japanese jokes as a good old boy gracious nod to their own insensitivity. But when it's stuck in a rather lame parody of an already stupid show, there is a need to kick the level of cleverness up a few notches. Unfortunately, all the scribes here can come up with is turning Deputy Enos into Deputy – you guessed it – Penis.
When The DAMN! Show stays with particular characters, both fictional and real life, the results are far more fun. Yucko is indeed an inspired amalgamation, using the baggy pants and bulbous nose as a shield between his horrible utterances and his victims. You just can't take a guy in a clown suit seriously, even if he's slandering your sexual proclivity, or your physical attractiveness. Better still – though painfully exploited – are the homeless men who make up many of the more memorable bits. Jimmy Gibberish has a stream of consciousness with so many booze based sinkholes and insane rapids that you half expect the Deliverance hillbillies to be living somewhere off in his cerebellum. The same goes for Rack 'Em Rack Willie, a man who seems to have reduced his vocabulary down to two words – rack and 'em – repeated ad nauseum and infinitum. When he gets going, you'd swear he's found a new manner of skid row transcendental meditation, complete with its own manic mantra. From Cherokee the Bum (who does Bad Santa a couple of superlatives better) and Propecia, the Crackwhore (whose Blind Date segment is absolutely brilliant!) The DAMN! Show proves that truth is stranger – and usually more inventive – than their humor.
Still, you have to give them props for trying, as well as being such daredevils about it. The "Inebriated the Koala" cartoons are very funny (and incredibly scathing) and the Podunk pairing of Regina Lynn and Bobby Possumcods give new meaning to the notion of trailer trash. But The DAMN! Show does rely too much on obvious ethnic humor and stunt satire. Answering the door naked for a deliveryman may be every Fed Ex person's own nightmare, but it doesn't make it that funny to witness. Porn is such an over the top trip in its current, mass marketed form, that the sight of stop motion mounds of clay sucking and f*cking is just not that original. And watching a dog attempt to pork a sleeping bag is not novel, just par for the puppy course.
But for every bit that fails (the ridiculous "Road Head", the foolish "Fun at the Drive-Thru Window"), we are treated to Yucko screeching his bald cap crap at everyone, or a creative, crackerjack look at that hot button race reality ("The Racist Mr. Ed"). While there is a desire to aim for the same 'Satan don't give a sh*t' air that permeates everything Johnny Knoxville or Tom Green does, The DAMN! Show is settled on targets that are far too familiar and easy. We should be in stitches, laughing our asses off in outraged disbelief. Instead, we are saddled sifting through 90 minutes of mess, relishing the really clever bits.
More professional than Public Access, The DAMN! Show looks pretty good in its 1.33:1 full screen transfer. The colors are correct, the contrasts are sharp and we get none of the usual technical glitches – haloing, bleeding, compression – that we except from low budget productions. While the series will never take home an award for its awkward editing, handheld framing and occasionally cockeyed compositions, this is a better than average image given a nice polish by a detail-oriented DVD company.
Similar to the visual elements, the Dolby Digital Stereo mix is also masterfully handled. The dialogue is always discernable, and the man on the street material is presented in as pristine a version as possible (though the unpredictable nature of the subjects can lead to the occasionally distorted or shrill segment). There is some decent metal, punk and hip-hop music on the disc, obviously used as underscoring or atmosphere, and the occasional song parody (the "Racist Mr. Ed" theme) does sound especially good here.
Where The DAMN! Show DVD really shines, though, is in the bonus feature department. There are several Easter Eggs scattered across the many menus (just look for faces in the corner, or objects that highlight when passed over) and each one contains additional moments of merriment. The best hidden feature involves a couple of comely lasses showing off their Southern, cornfed cans to the home viewers, before getting involved in a little wading pool wrestling.
In addition, Yucko gets an interactive feature where after picking a food item, you will be shown a clip of him eating it in a very disgusting manner. Called "Lunch with Yucko", it's a highlight. The character bios, including bits on Cherokee, Jimmy Gibberish and Rack 'Em Rack Willie are also very enlightening (guess which one drinks his own piss) and the "Languages" option gives you a chance to see Regina Lynn and Bobby Possumcods having a good old fashioned common law brawl in four different dialects (including Ebonics, and Spanglish). While there is no commentary (it would have been great to hear Yucko deride this entire exercise) and the cast bios are just a scrawl with each performers name, the added content here really does a sensational job of supplementing The DAMN! Show.
There will be many who watch The DAMN! Show and laugh so hard that they'll think this critic is a tree-hugging bastard for not giving it a more glowing review. There will be others who sit through 10 or 15 minutes, and after the fourth use of the "N" word or the first Jew joke, will be convinced that yours truly wears a white sheet and runs around his neighborhood burning small letter "t"s in neighbor's yards. The DAMN! Show is indeed that divisive. If you're willing to go with the foul flow, apply a mostly open mind, and accept the skits for what they are, you'll probably have a very good time. But if you believe that there is never a call to make fun of the infirmed, if you look at the misuse of destitute men and women as part of a (mostly) white man's menagerie of mirth, than you will cringe at a great deal of what The DAMN! Show is doing. Comedy is a hard nut to crack, especially when you are looking for it in unusual or forbidden places. For the most part, The DAMN! Show manages to bust a few balls – and spilt a few sides – in the process. Just don't expect them to give a good crap if you don't get it. They know they are preaching to the converted, except in this case, it may just be the perverted.
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