Filmed in front of a live audience at the Warner Theater in Washington D.C., just down the road from the White House, Lewis Black – Red White And Screwed is a great seventy-five minute barrage of Black's inimitable angry rants about whatever happens to be pissing him off at any given time. In short, for fans of Black, it's bliss. Pure, venomous bliss.
He starts his show off by explaining to the sold out theater that the show was originally to have taken place at the Kennedy Center but that someone there saw a tape of his last HBO special and decided that since there were forty-two f-words used in that performance that if Black were to perform there that they'd only allow it if he weren't on the marquee and if the recording didn't acknowledge the fact that it was taking place at the Kennedy Center. This gets him understandably fired up that from there he goes on to rant against the current administration, the insanity of the spin that comes on current events from both the Democrats and the Republicans, and Jewish versus Fundamentalist Christian interpretations of the Old Testament. He covers family values and the way that certain political groups assume that homosexuals are going to destroy them and he covers certain blunders that have been made in Iraq and in America's foreign policy as of late.
In short, this is Black doing what Black does best – raging against the machine. He's a tightly wound coil spraying piss and vinegar at any target that he sees fit and through the use of some interesting allegories, genuinely intelligent insight and his trademark creative profanity he keeps the crowd in stitches from start to finish. It'll surprise no one to learn that Black's politics, which play a huge part in his act, don't necessarily align with those of the current administration and so yes, Bush and Cheney take a lot of pot shots such as Black's take on Cheney's hunting accident or his theory that Bush just flat out doesn't know where he is half the time. That being said, he's not exactly soft on the Democrats either, explaining his take on Kerry and accusing both sides of similar spin tactics. What he does here it not so much point fingers at either side but paint a rather disturbing portrait of the big picture at work. He illustrates through his humor how skewed reporting is these days and how there's no such things as unbiased reporting when it comes to the major news networks.
Particularly amusing is Black's bit about performing at a Presidential banquet and the compromises he had to make in order to do it. Though he originally wanted to decline at his parents request he took the gig and the lead up and preparation that he had to go through to get ready for it leads to some amusing stories but the aftermath and what his parents had to go through in the audience that night is even funnier.
In the end, this disc and the performance it contains isn't going to win over anyone who doesn't like Lewis Black. The man is what he is, and his refreshingly honest and critical take on world events and domestic issues and politics is smart, funny, angry and obscene. It'll definitely put off those whose politics swing only to the right but for anyone currently fed up with the nonsense being fired at the American people from either side of the current political spectrum, it's hard not to laugh at this material.
HBO hits this one out of the park in the visuals department with a razor sharp image, near perfect color reproduction, and nary a compression artifact in sight. There is the odd spot of edge enhancement that creeps up here and there but it's so slight that you probably won't notice it much unless you're intentionally looking to find it. There's no print damage to speak of and the fullframe image is clean and clear from start to finish – you can even make out the detail in the draped background behind Lewis. This fullframe transfer looks great.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix sounds just great. Dialogue is crystal clear and the laughter from the audience fills out the surrounds quite nicely giving the performance a more life like sound-scape that really does sound much better than most of the other live comedy DVD's I've heard. An alternate English Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is also included on the disc but if you've got the gear to make it work, the 5.0 mix is really the way to go. English closed captioning is also available.
Aside from static menus and chapter stops for the feature, HBO has included five little featurettes in the extra features section each of which runs for three to four minutes in length. The first, Lewis Black Behind The Scenes Featuring The Box Office Girl is a look at Black's sound check and an interview with the lady working the box office at the theater who has never heard of him. Ride The Short Bus With Lewis Black is a look at Black's tour bus and the man who drives it while Lewis Black Buck Naked In D.C. is an anecdote that Black tells about the time he and some friends wandered naked around the Jefferson Memorial. Lewis Black Probes Uncle Sam is the HBO promo spot for the special wherein Lewis gives an ailing Uncle Sam an anal probe and Why Lewis Black Should Never Be A Doctor is a collection of profane outtakes from the shooting of the aforementioned promo spot.
A smart, angry and most importantly funny critique of the current situation America has found itself in, this is Black at his finest. Both sides of the political spectrum get hit with both barrels and his scathing rants can't be bothered to play partisan favorites – something that is quite rare these days. comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.