Most comedians, be it in interviews or in their act, speak in awe of the first time they appeared on the late Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" -- it's akin to a religious experience, a once-in-a-lifetime shot that either marks the beginning of great things or the apex of an otherwise minor career. This two-disc set, culling from a range of decades, focuses mainly on more recognizable (read that: more bankable) names, many of whom appear startlingly young on Carson's stage for their first-ever televised performances.
It's a hit-or-miss assemblage, with plenty of obscure funny folks tucked in among the stars-on-the rise; as such, it's more of an archival release, something to have if you're either a huge fan of stand-up in general or perhaps very fanatical about the performers featured here. Carson fans should probably bypass this set, since the host is relegated strictly to introducing his guests and nothing else.
The first disc features performances (playable separately or all together for an aggregate running time of one hour) from Roseanne Barr, Rich Shydner, Steve Wright, Brett Butler, Bill Kirchenbauer, Jerry Seinfeld, Louie Anderson, Ronnie Shakes, Kelly Monteith and Garry Shandling. The second disc houses clips (again, playable separately or all together for an aggregate running time of 61 minutes) of Drew Carey, Sean Morey, George Carlin, David Brenner, Gallagher, Daryl Sivad, Rita Rudner, Maureen Murphy, Rich Hall and Rodney Dangerfield.
In a nice touch, the date of the comedian's performance is included during a brief title screen preceding each segment; this two-disc set isn't essential viewing by any stretch of the imagination, but as a piece of television (and stand-up comedy) history, the curious would do well to give it a cursory spin.
Presented as originally broadcast on NBC, the clips from "The Tonight Show" are offered up in 1.33:1 fullscreen that varys in quality depending upon the age of the segment, but for the most part, looks clear and free from video noise or other visual defects.
Again, as originally broadcast, these clips feature Dolby 2.0 stereo sound that occasionally sounds a little tinny and thin, but doesn't get bogged down with audience laughter obscuring the punchlines. Dialogue is heard clearly (although English subtitles would've been a nice touch) and no major audio flaws are detectable.
No bonus features are included.
This two-disc set isn't essential viewing by any stretch of the imagination, but as a piece of television (and stand-up comedy) history, the curious would do well to give it a cursory spin. Rent it.