In 10 Words or Less
The king of low-key comedy takes over America
Loves: "The Office" (the U.S. Version), Stand-up Comedy
Likes: "The Office" (the U.K. Version), Ricky Gervais
Dislikes: The lack of extras on stand-up DVDs
Among fans of dark, dry comedy, Ricky Gervais is very nearly a god, having brought us the highly-acclaimed and highly cringe-inducing "The Office" and "Extras," but among the general public, he's hardly as well-known (as the performance of his film "Ghost Town" possibly illustrates.) Since he doesn't even appear on his most popular American import, he's got to get some face time with the colonies, and how better to do that than take a tour of the States, putting his comedic persona center stage. And if one of those shows, from the LatestCorporateSponsor Theater at Madison Square Garden, happens to be filmed and released on DVD, all the better for the curious and the fans to watch him ply his craft.
Following a ridiculously grandiose opening involving pyrotechnics, a crown and a giant lighted "RICKY" as a backdrop, the pudgy, unaffecting Gervais gets into his somewhat soft-spoken act between sips off a big can of Foster's. He starts off tame, with a bit about an easy target: cancer patients. It's obvious that there are no sacred cows for Gervais, as he'll proceed to make fun of people with autism (sharing a botched attempt at recreating Rain Man) and AIDS (with a brilliant bit of dialogue between patient zero and the monkey that infected him) before moving on to safer topics like the Holocaust. There's almost a sense that he's oblivious to the horrible nature of what he's saying, but that's just the Ricky Gervais Comedy Persona he's crafted over the years, and that's what makes him a phenomenal performer.
Unlike so many stand-up acts or monologists (two genres of performance Gervais falls between), the man seems wholly uninterested in talking about himself, outside of a few minor notes tossed out for clarification, rather than content (unless you count the stories he tells about childhood friends.) Instead, he acts more like a commentator or analyst, evaluating material he's brought with him, including a 1989 postcard advocating alternatives to unsafe anal sex and a list of unusual animal facts. Reading off the items, it's not a case of a simple quick joke about it. Instead, he delves in, brings the item to life and illustrates how absurd it is. It's a technique that works great when examining old children's stories for ridiculous elements.
The thing that surprised me about Gervais act is how base his comedy can be, perhaps because as a well-respected British performer, you expect something classy. Instead, you get bits about urinating for doctors, giant genitalia (perhaps a European comic thing,) not wearing underwear and being watched while masturbating. But for as scatalogical as he can get, he's never aggressive about it. Thanks to his unassuming look and measured delivery, it's almost cute in a way, like a kid saying "poopie." But it's the rare kid who can compare sharks and nazis, ruminate on war and joke about glory holes. That's what makes Mr. Gervais so special.
The one-disc release is packed in a standard keepcase, and features a static anamorphic widescreen menu offering options to play the show, select scenes and check out the special features. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though there is closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on the show is quite nice, with appropriate color, a solid image and a decent amount of fine detail. There are no problems with dirt or damage, and no obvious issues with compression artifacts.
HBO continues to disappoint with their stand-up DVDs, offering only an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track. It's not that the track is bad in any way, and it's in fact quite good, presenting Gervais clearly, with clean separation from the audience, in a balanced mix that's front and center.
The only extra is a 11-minute conversation with Gervais, which has his thoughts about comedy and his stand-up mixed with footage from the show. As usual, he's funny even when sitting down and just talking, and he's not just spitting out fluff either, which makes it worth a look.
The Bottom Line
Though Gervais does a terrific job of pushing his characters to the brink of unlikability (and in frequent cases, beyond) on stage he's slightly more cuddly, and the result is a hilarious performance that blends the brilliant darkness of his TV work with a crowd-pleasing, if subdued delivery. The DVD looks and sounds solid, and has a decent extra, but with a scant 83 minutes of content, it's hard to really suggest a purchase.
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 follow him on Twitter
*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.