I share a presumption among many when it comes to Jim Breuer. He was the guy who was on Saturday Night Live for a couple years in the late '90s and found a couple of niche characters, the human/goat hybrid that hosted a talk show, along with a better than average impersonation of Goodfellas actor Joe Pesci. He also appeared in the Dave Chappelle stoner film Half Baked. But years later after he left the show, I found him interesting, nay, funny, for a different reason.
From time to time, Breuer would appear on the Opie and Anthony radio show and regale the hosts with some of his experiences working on the notoriously demanding SNL show. Within these stories, he also mixed in some dead-on impersonations of cast members Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire) and Tracy Morgan (30 Rock), which made for hilarious stuff. His appearances have been increasingly scarce in recent years, in part because he has been spending time raising his three daughters, but he took time out to record a stand-up special for Comedy Central (his second for the network), titled "Let's Clear the Air."
For an hour, Breuer manages to cover some of the same material mentioned above, but doesn't get into too many incendiary details. After all, it's his special; if he wanted to napalm any show business bridge, it would make better sense for him to do it elsewhere. He talks of introducing his Dad to Sylvester Stallone, and how, despite his physical appearance, he was only high once during production of Half Baked, and it was by accident. He switches gears, recalling his days growing up on Long Island near JFK International Airport, where the planes flew over "every two minutes and 20 seconds." He incorporates an underappreciated mimicry (what other comic is impersonating Tracy Morgan, Dave Chappelle and Sylvester Stallone? How many of them are white?) within these stories, and it makes for laughs. In between lines, he has a childish giggle which is infectious and can't help make you laugh. Some of the jokes reach a little bit, but it's nice to go along for the ride.
A third of the way through the set though, Breuer starts to talk about his wife and kids, and while I was watching this, something struck me. Normally when a comic (who happens to be a father) talks about his family, it's done with an observational tone, as if to say "look at what these people are doing. I may be crazy for living with them, but I love 'em." Breuer's demeanor and personality are one where you can sense he's the fun parent to a degree. He throws himself headlong into his children's thoughts and endeavors, and some of the stories he tells are hilarious. In between lines, when Breuer towels off or drinks water while the audience is soaking in the joke they just heard, two small projection screens behind him show pictures of his family and parents. In one particular picture, you see Breuer and family in the proverbial "cute family" picture and the crowd awwws, and Breuer is quick to say that it's cute, but "it took two hours" to get them to be that way. Breuer's energy allows him to emulate what the kids are doing so that you relate to it, whether you're a parent or not. And as he's in his early 40s, he could easily serve as a voice for the young parent of today. The guy who loves heavy metal but can't play it in front of his kids, the guy who juggles the responsibility and fun equally.
It's this portion of Breuer's act which convinces me that, with a little more polishing and focus, Breuer could deliver a routine that could transcend Comedy Central. To this very day, I don't have kids, but I still watch the excellent Bill Cosby standup film Himself. I laughed at it for the role I played as a kid in my family, and I laugh knowing the kinds of things that I'm going to face as a parent. Breuer has the potential for a Cosby-like special, and from what I see in Let's Clear the Air, I think he's up to the challenge. That is, if the wife and kids will let him.
Comedy Central delivers Let's Clear the Air to DVD in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, replicating the Comedy Central broadcast. There is a small several-minute film of Breuer rounding up the familial troops before the show, and in between that and the standup, there's no crushing or artifact issues, and there wasn't any edge enhancement that I noticed. The events on the disc look natural and crisp, so there's nothing to complain about here.
From the disc's main menu, Breuer greets you and shows you the disc options before launching into a dead-on impersonation of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. You can choose a two-channel stereo mix or a 5.1 surround sound option. In going with the surround sound choice, I was surprised at the level of immersion in the performance. Dialogue is balanced and sounds clear without any panning, and the rear speaker ambient crowd noise is subtle without being simply duplicate noise from the front channels. Pretty good stuff here.
Two quickies, the first is a behind the scenes look at Breuer's photoshoot for the concert (0:42), the second is a chat with Jim and his dad (5:38), and it's kind of fascinating to watch. His Dad is old, but he's still pretty feisty to his son. You get a glimpse as to how he impersonates his Dad, but very little else.
It may be easy to toss Jim Breuer into the pile of castmembers from Saturday Night Live who are notable for being forgotten (I'm looking at you, Chris Kattan), but Breuer's comedy is surprisingly funny and shows promise far beyond what's shown here. I recommend taking the time to watch Breuer clear the air, you'll see what I see and enjoy it.