In 10 Words or Less
A fix of Dave Chappelle to stop your jonesin'
Loves: Dave Chappelle, stand-up comedy
Hates: Not having new "Chappelle's Show" episodes
When I first saw Dave Chappelle's "Killin' Them Softly" stand-up act, it was pretty obvious that he was something special, if only from his bit about being left in a limo in the projects. His rough-edged jokes were tempered by a voice and exaggerated movements that are inherently hilarious, and his supposedly true stories, like his driving tales, are the perfect vehicle for his comic sensibilities. Watching him in Half-Baked only solidified him as one of my favorites.
It was no surprise that mega-success for him followed with his Comedy Central sketch series "Chappelle's Show." Instead, it was what happened next that was the surprise, as Chappelle left the country and forced his hyper-popular series into hiatus. Instead of continuing his rise as the next great American comic, he dropped out of sight, rivaling his hero Richard Pryor's self-destructive pinnacle.
Shot in June of 2004, and shown on Showtime in September of last year, "For What It's Worth" is the last comic performance Dave Chappelle recorded before his South African freak-out. As a laugh-out-loud comic experience, it doesn't stack up to the earlier "Killin' Them Softly," but without any new Chappelle comedy coming down the pipeline, it's a solid set for fans of his.
Starting out with the old stand-up stand-by of talking about the locals, Chappelle talks about the people of San Francisco, before quickly segueing into his preferred topic of race. 2004 was a good year for Chappelle in terms of headlines to mine, starting with Kobe Bryant, leading into R. Kelly, before wrapping up with Michael Jackson. His take on being a black celebrity, including his troubles with fans of his famous characters, is actually more interesting now than it was when the show aired, thanks to the way Chappelle's 2005 has rolled out.
Instead of sticking to his race-based comedy, Chappelle moves into somewhat different territory with his bits about his plastic surgery plans, dealing with low-budget strippers and what being a man is about. Surprisingly, this is where he shines, as the raunchy and nonsensical plastic surgery jokes and just ridiculous stripper bit are among the best in the show.
While much of the show is pretty funny, even if Chappelle is riding his vocal acrobatics and physical comedy, at one point he just loses the audience. While talking about R. Kelly, he gets a bit too serious about how 15-year-olds can be sentenced for murder but also considered unable to consent to sex. It's one of the rare moments when the audience just doesn't connect with him. Fortunately, he's able to recover nicely, but it's a momentum killer that was absent in his earlier DVD.
The 57-minute stand-up act is delivered on one DVD, in a standard keepcase with a two-sided promotional insert. The disc features an animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu with options to watch the show, adjust subtitles, select scenes and view the extra features. The scene selection menus are lists of scene titles, while subtitles are available in English and French. There are no audio options, but there is English closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen video on this DVD looks great, with a nice level of detail and excellent color. Black levels are good, and there's no noticeable dirt, damage or noise. I don't remember it looking this good on TV when it originally aired. In fact, there's been few stand-up DVDs released that look better than this.
The audio, done is Dolby Digital 5.1, puts the audience into the surrounds, and places Chappelle dead center. Since this is a stand-up comedy performance, there's not much to the mix, but the audio is recorded well and sounds just as one would hope for. This disc is an all-around good job in terms of the audio/video quality.
The only real extra included on this DVD is actually a pretty interesting one. During preparation for the show, Chappelle tried out new material at small comedy clubs, and six clips of those practice runs (seven minutes in all) are included here. The jokes ended up in the final show, just not in the form they are found here. It's interesting to see the development of a comic act. The video quality isn't so hot, and the camera work is weak (the camera stays still no matter where Chappelle wanders), but the sound is good for most of them.
10 previews for Sony DVDs and films are also available to check out.
The Bottom Line
"Killin' Them Softly" stands as the better of the two Dave Chappelle stand-up DVDs, but with no new shows coming any time soon, "For What It's Worth" is definitely a disc fans will want to check out. The slight extras are interesting, and the quality of the disc is excellent, which makes it worth the cost, as long as you don't expect more than an hour of comedy. Whether that's a tease or a satisfying morsel depends on your own love of Chappelle.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.