"I may not agree with what you say,
but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
What makes a stand-up comedian stand out? Honesty? Stage presence? The ability to connect with a crowd? It really takes a great deal of each, but above all it takes guts (or balls, whatever you prefer). They say public speaking is the most universally feared course in school, and the thought of standing before of a crowd of total strangers with a spotlight blazing overhead...well, it's enough to make yours truly clam up and run for cover. Guts prevent stuff like that, but practice helps too. Other side effects of guts include offending various groups of people, doing things your own way and risking your neck in the process.
Legendary stand-up comedians like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks had guts (Hicks was even confronted at gunpoint once for his opinions)---and while it's too early to put him on the same level, Carlos Mencia certainly has guts too. Born in Honduras and raised in the projects of East Los Angeles, Mencia's particular brand of no-holds-barred comedy---like the name of the DVD implies---is Not for the Easily Offended. Though he's appeared in a handful of TV shows and movies---and was a featured performer in The Three Amigos: Uncensored Stand-Up (DVD Talk's review of the disc is linked below)---Not for the Easily Offended is Carlos' first retail DVD of a live solo performance, and it's quite a promising start. Combine this with an upcoming series on Comedy Central (Mind of Mencia, recently slated for a 10-episode run starting in July), and you can bet you'll be hearing a lot more from this guy in the near future. Heck, you might as well get acquainted now.
Not for the Easily Offended was my first exposure to Mencia's stand-up routine, but I actually wasn't all that impressed during the first few minutes. He starts out with a few easy targets (Michael Jackson, Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy), often times letting his fondness for vulgarity overshadow the jokes...but a funny thing happened a few short minutes later. After really involving the crowd in a few bits, Mencia was completely on fire during the remainder of the 66-minute show. Extremely dynamic and almost rabid at times, his targets included the dumbing down of America's education system, immigration and the ever-popular topic of race relations and stereotypes. He had the crowd eating out of his hand for the bulk of the performance, letting them know right up front that they'd probably all be offended at some time or another---so they might as well laugh about it.
Truthfully, that's how Mencia's brand of humor works best: once you remove the pesky barrier that's been built from a constant focus on political correctness, you'll have a great time. It's not like I'm a reliable gauge of comedy---even though it's my favorite genre---but I rarely laugh out loud at jokes, even if they're funny (I'll usually just snicker, or crack a smile). Yet as Not for the Easily Offended wore on, it became incredibly easy to crack up over Mencia's thoughts on America and its people. He blatantly points out what he feels is wrong with our country, yet he's obviously still in love with it (tough love, I guess). You might be offended at the profanity, the subject matter, or even his strange brand of patriotism...but, trust me, it's all in good fun. He doesn't see problems with just one race, creed, or religion---he sees problems will all of 'em. If you're willing to let your guard down for a few minutes, you should have no problem laughing when it's your turn under the microscope.
Recorded live in San Jose, Not for the Easily Offended arrives on DVD courtesy of StudioWorks Entertainment. This 66-minute performance (not 100 minutes as the packaging claims, as that includes the bonus material) looks and sounds almost as good as a comedy routine needs to, but this release's strength is definitely the main feature itself. It's a solid hour of terrific comedy and one of the better breakout performances I've seen in some time, so fans of stand-up should take note.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
There's no special effects or sweeping camera angles; just one guy, a microphone, and a stage (and some funny-looking folks in the front row). It doesn't have to look terrific, but a passable 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer gets the job done nicely. Still, there's a bit of room for improvement here: the image often looks a bit on the soft side, and a few mild interlacing errors were spotted (especially noticeable due to Mencia's violent gestures). The audio presentation also falls in the same category, as this 2.0 Stereo mix is basic but serviceable. The comedian and the crowd are separated well, though Mencia's strong range of volume---combined with his profanity-laced tirades---may have you reaching for the volume button on occasion. No subtitles have been provided here, though a portion of the bonus material that's a little hard to understand is presented with burned-in English captions.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
Seen above, the animated menu designs are straightforward and easy to navigate. The 66-minute main feature has been presented with no chapter stops---though there's really no reason to skip around here, it would've been handy to go right to select segments (especially after watching it a few times). Just for the record, no layer change was detected during playback. The packaging is also very straightforward, as this single-disc release is housed in a standard white keepcase with no insert.
There's a nice bit of behind-the-scenes footage here, appropriately titled Hangin' With Carlos (35 minutes total). Basically, we're given a fly-on-the-wall look at the day's events leading up to one of Carlos' live shows (January 14th at the Spreckles Theater in San Diego). The day starts bright and early at 6:27 am, as Carlos and company depart for a stop on their San Diego radio tour; among other things, he exhibits his comedic skills even with a block on profanity. From there, we're off to the golf course; after a short music montage, Carlos shows he's a better comedian than a putter. After that, there's a quick stop off to hang out with the band P.O.D., where we see a bit of ping-pong action---and our hero picks out some gear to wear at the show. Finally, Carlos and company arrive at the Spreckles Theater, where there's some more behind-the-scenes footage and a few clips of the show from the nosebleed seats. Overall, a thoughtful inclusion and a nice contrast to the main feature.
Brash, abrasive, vulgar and amazingly funny, Not for the Easily Offended proves that great comedy often speaks for itself. I'd never seen Mencia's routine before checking out this disc, but he made a fan out of this reviewer in just over 60 minutes. There's a small cluster of weaker spots here and there, but the main feature captures an incredibly talented young comedian doing what he does best: speaking his mind without compromise. StudioWorks has put together a decent package here; the technical presentation isn't spectacular and the bonus materials could've been beefed up, but you'd be hard pressed to find a funnier disc for under $20. Not for the Easily Offended certainly isn't for all audiences, but hey---it already says so right on the front. Highly Recommended.
DVD Talk Review: The Three Amigos: Uncensored Stand-Up by Geoffrey Kleinman
Randy Miller III is an art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person. Try the veal, he'll be here all week.