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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion
Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion
Red Envelope Entertainment // Unrated // Netflix-exclusive; not for sale
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Linksynergy]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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Somewhere around my fifty-third rewrite of this introduction, it dawned on me that maybe I should just throw out a link to YouTube. I mean, what's going to give you a better impression of a comedian -- video...something you can see and hear...or a few awkward quotes and a half-assed three sentence write-up? Thanks, YouTube, for making the life of a lazy DVD reviewer incrementally easier.

Really, though, if you need an introduction to Zach Galifianakis, I'll save you a few minutes. Watch his Comedy Central Presents special. Dig through some of his stuff on YouTube. See if one of those underground torrent sites has the entire run of his brilliant-but-cancelled VH1 talk show handy. Hold off on Live at the Purple Onion until you're enough of a fan to be able to spell Zach's last name without cheating.

I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just that this is a comedian who tossed a disclaimer onto his previous DVD that reads "Anyone can put out a DVD of them doing well. I think failure is funnier." Most comics stick to over-rehearsed, heavily road-tested material on their stand-up DVDs, editing out anything the least bit awkward, but that's not really what stand-up is about. The DVD's titled "Live at the Purple Onion" 'cause that's exactly what it is, not a canned set that's indistinguishable from what Zach would do any other night in any other city. Zach interrupts his act for...I dunno, five minutes when he's fascinated by a distractingly old guy sitting a few feet from the stage. Sometimes he'll blow the first couple words of a bit, quipping how that'll be cut out of the DVD. Nope. Rather than avoid acknowledging that there are cameras around, at one point, Zach stands a few inches from a stone-faced cameraman and tries feverishly to get a laugh. He's the only comedian I can think of off the top of my head who can close a set without saying a word, and I've never seen him do it the same way twice.

...and that's the thing. If you're already a fan, that sorta thing is much more interesting than a joke you've heard seven or eight times before, but the uninitiated will probably just wonder what the hell he's doing. There's a really good mix of tried-'n-true material and off-the-cuff stuff, but as hysterical as so much of Live at the Purple Onion is, it's not consistently funny from start to finish. I'm pretty sure that's the point, though.

The hour-long special (just to use a word other than "DVD") was directed by Michael Blieden, who'd previously followed Zach around with a camera crew during his stint with The Comedians of Comedy. Mixed in with the concert material is some candid stuff on the road, and most of it seems genuinely candid, not the staged, finger-quotes-sarcastically "candid" footage on other comedy DVDs. To glean a little insight into the mind of a comedian, Brian Unger interviews Zach's estranged brother Seth, and as much as he tries not to break, I don't think Unger ever makes it an entire segment without cracking up.

Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion isn't the best introduction to one of the most original, indescribably brilliant comics working today, but it's essential viewing for his fans and hopefully just the first of many DVDs. Highly Recommended.

A quick note, though -- Shout! Factory will be issuing Live at the Purple Onion on DVD next March, but in the meantime, it's available exclusively through Netflix. If you're looking for a Zach double feature, Netflix also has dibs on The Comedians of Comedy: The Movie.

Video: The DVD looks pretty slick for the most part, shot on high-ish end DV video and enhanced for widescreen displays. The quality varies depending on the camera used for each angle, and there are greatly varying degrees of video noise, but for
Zach really does have more than one facial expression. I'm just a lousy reviewer.
the most part...sharp, clean, and all that fun stuff. The frame rate is a little on the jerky side, but it's nothing especially distracting.

Audio: Live at the Purple Onion includes a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 track (384Kbps). There's some underlying hiss during the stand-up, but the recording on-stage otherwise doesn't suffer from any problems, or at least nothing that lingers long enough for me to bitch about here. The mix also does a nice job spreading crowd noise and laughter effectively across all of the channels. Better than average for stand-up.

There's also a Dolby Digital stereo track that's encoded at a bitrate of 192Kbps, as if the sampling rate's going to make or break a couple of clicks at Netflix. No subtitles or closed captions, so if you're deaf or aren't too hot with English...yeah.

Extras: The DVD includes right at half an hour of additional stuff. "The Awkward Slapping Bit" and "Zach Shaves" are pretty much as advertised. Same goes for "Outtakes from Brian Unger's interview with Seth Galifianakis", where I heard the word 'Funyuns' more times in the space of eleven minutes than the remainder of the past 28 years and change of my young, sheltered life. Last up is "More...", which is twelve minutes of stuff like Zach trying out his Indian mistaking 7s for 9s bit and some multi-layered-translation-interviewing outside the Michael Jackson trial. If stand-up comedy were the Comstock Lode, that'd make Zach Galifianakis a modern day William Sharon.

This additional footage is letterboxed and non-anamorphic. The DVD sports a set of animated 4x3 menus, and the hour-long feature is divided into nine chapters.

Conclusion: Live at the Purple Onion will be In A Store Near You! sometime in March 2007, but in the meantime, Zach Galifianakis' live DVD is available exclusively through Netflix. Live at the Purple Onion is kinda on the deep side of the comedy pool, and the uninitiated might be better off wading through his more accessible Comedy Central Presents special instead of diving headfirst into this DVD. If you're already a fan, though...? Highly Recommended.
Rent "Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion" now!
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