In 10 Words or Less
On coping with family and chocolate genitalia
Loves: Stand-up comedy
Likes: The Simpsons
Dana Gould went a long time between stand-up specials, but he was busy, writing for shows like "The Simpsons" and doing acting and voice work all over the place. He did keep his stand-up skills sharp by making regular appearances at the mic, so returning for this show found him in fine form, to the point where he seemed like a guy doing two shows a night every weekend. It's all about the confidence and energy he brings to the stage.
Launching into a run about his family, Gould lends this traditional material a fresh touch, talking about how people react to his adopted Chinese daughters and the influence of his angry father on him. But it's a quick switch to advice about the proper way to eat a chocolate penis in public, the anger of conservatives and the need for flamboyant men to deliver bad news. Gould is all over the map in this special, bouncing from idea to idea, mixing thoughts about the people he's met and thoughts he's had, creating a loose flowing set that doesn't bog down trying to connect bits or tell involved stories.
Though his segment about astronauts and their struggles with non-space life is great, and his worries about getting stuck in an elevator are hilarious, it's his finale that had me laughing out loud, as he plays out the concerns his father had about him moving to California as a young man. It's a filthy bit of pantomime matched with a brilliant job of storytelling, resulting in big laughs to wrap up the 49-minute special, along with three important life lessons.
Stand-up specials tend to be pretty simple affairs to present, and the direction normally stands out far more if it's bad, but here, "Mr. Show" co-creator Bob Odenkirk masterfully crafts an excellent stand-up show, via well-selected camera angles (including an interesting over the shoulder angle) and solid editing. There's not much more to the show than Gould, a mic and a backdrop, but it all definitely comes together under Odenkirk's guidance.
A one-disc release, this DVD is packed in a clear, single-width keepcase with a dual-sided cover and an insert that lists the chapter stops. The DVD has an animated, anamorphic widescreen menu with options to watch the special, select chapters, adjust languages and check out the bonus material. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, but there are no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen video is quite nice, capturing the bright colors of the stage's backdrop appropriately, while the fine detail presents Gould's animated face very well. There are no issues with dirt, damage or compression artifacts, but it has the harsh sharpness of video. The opening titles, done in black and white, look great in an old-fashioned style.
The audio is presented as a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that does a nice job with the material, putting Gould in the middle of the mix, while placing the audiences in the side and rear speakers, putting you in the room. There's nothing dynamic about the mix, but you can't expect that with a stand-up disc.
Up first is a short seven-minute interview with Gould, conducted by Odenkirk. One might expect a silly affair when two very funny guys sit down to chat, but it's actually a pretty informative piece, with Gould talking about his experiences as a stand-up and a writer. The only unusual aspect is the camera work, which is oddly shaky, a factor that may have been by choice.
A 15-minute short film written and directed by Gould, Soul Mates follows, and it's an amusing little movie, about a guy whose wife dies, only to return to let him know they really are soul mates. It could probably have been shorter, as some of the scenes with his wife are a bit too much, but it's not overbearing, and it features the very funny Paul Greenberg, with appearances by David Koechner and Rob Schrab.
The extras wrap with two deleted bits from the special, one labeled "Indefensibly Tasteless Bonus Bit," about abortion and the South, the other "Woe is Me" Bonus Complaint about his dental woes. Both are OK, but don't stand up against the rest of the special.
The Bottom Line
One of the lesser-known comics to rise from the '90s alternative stand-up boom, Gould is nonetheless quite successful, and, as this DVD shows, very funny (not to mention occasionally manic.) The DVD offers up his latest special in fine quality and adds a few decent extras to the package. Fans of stand-up comedy, especially silly, scattershot performers should enjoy this disc.
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.