Those who know Artie Lange from his work on The Howard Stern show know that he's had more than a few problems with drugs, booze, gambling and hookers, for subjects that he lays on the table in this, his latest stand up DVD, Jack And Coke. The coke he's talking about here ain't the kind that comes out of a can.
Playing to a fairly big crowd at New York City's Gotham Comedy Club, Lange, sober at the time of this recording, comes on stage and immediately starts ripping on Heath Ledger, claiming that he's glad he's dead because he kept loosing movie roles to him. From here he goes on to talk about Brokeback Mountain, explaining that he didn't think it was particularly polite of Ledger to sodomize Jake Gyllenhaal in the tent without at least asking him first. This segues into Artie ranting about how good looking famous guys get all the girls they want, and how Tom Brady must have girls who let him stash Super Bowl rings inside them for safe keeping. If you haven't gathered, at this point, that Artie plays 'blue' then you're not going to want to read any further. But if you're still here, Artie elaborates on his odd 'jizz energy' theories with some really freakishly funny physical comedy, explaining how ejaculate in one's mouth will inevitably lead to manic bursts of activity.
Lange sticks to what he knows best here, talking about and making light of his experiences with prostitutes and drugs, impersonating a few sports figures including Mike Tyson, and even providing a hand puppet show he insists will help kids learn a lesson so valuable he repeats it a few times - "If you give a prostitute money to go out and get cocaine, she will not come back." He tells some stories about gambling in Vegas, bitches about the trials and tribulations of sobriety, and makes plenty of self deprecating jokes about his appearance, his weight, and his addition problems and manages to insult just about everyone he can along the way. He even waxes poetically on the pros of resembling Rosie O'Donnell when trying to find girls to perform oral sex on. There are no sacred cows in Artie's world - he makes jabs at whites, blacks, Indians, Hispanics and goofs on anything and anyone he sees fit. His discussion of his USO trip to Afghanistan to entertain the troops are amusing and interesting, as they allow him to get a little bit political without straying too far from his roots.
Artie goes on for a good hour and half, keeping the audience amused and seemingly having a good time up on stage despite the absence of a drink in his hand. His fans will appreciate this, but should be forewarned that a lot of the material he uses here is either recycled from or a slightly different variation of a bit he's used somewhere else, predominantly on Stern. He throws that show's listeners a few bones, eliciting a 'Baba Booey' chant now and again and sharing a few funny stories about his experiences there, but much of this material is going to sound familiar to those who have followed Lange's career since he left Mad TV. Seeing Lange deliver it does make it more interesting, but sometimes when you've heard a lot of the jokes before you can't help but feel a bit disappointed.
The performance is scattered at times, Lange will sometimes switch from one subject to the next and then go back to the first one almost as if he's getting distracted, but even when he does get sidetracked like this, he's entertaining enough. If the guy apes Belushi a bit too much, at least he's borrowing from the best even if some of his lifestyle choices are catching up with him these days. Artie's a funny guy, his crass sense of humor and schlubby demeanor work well together, and while he gets crass and dirty far more often than he plays it clean, he never really gets so mean spirited that you can't tell he's joking. The guy's got a great wit and a talent for stand up, it's just a shame that he didn't really put all that much effort into writing new material here.
Oddly enough, the video is presented in 1.78.1 non-anamorphic widescreen, which is surprising when you consider that Image also released Jack And Coke on Blu-ray and that the HD transfer was anamorphic, making it all the more of a disappointment that this SD release is simply letterboxed. Aside from that, the picture is perfectly watchable. There isn't any print damage and while detail isn't particularly revelatory, for a performance shot in a nightclub with stage lighting, it's not terrible. Colors look natural enough and there aren't any compression artifacts or edge enhancement problems to note, but there's a lot of aliasing present throughout playback.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on this DVD is fine, though no alternate language options, closed captioning options or subtitles are supplied. There isn't a whole lot of channel separation here, but you may notice some laughter coming from the left and right of the mix at times. Artie's levels are fine, you can always understand him and make out what he's saying without any problems. There isn't any background hiss to note nor is there any distortion and while this is a fairly simple mix, it does get the job done.
There aren't a ton of extra features on this release but Image has supplied some entertaining bonus clips, the first of which is called Artie's Fans (3:04) and which is basically a montage of clips from the people who have come out to see him perform. Behind The Scenes (4:47) is a bit where Artie talks about how he prepares for a show and how he goes about putting together his material for the evening while the Song By ReSurch (2:23) clips lets a musician named ReSurch talk to the camera about writing Lange's theme song. Hecklers And Extra Jokes (4:05) is a four minute collection of just that, and some of Lange's comebacks are pretty amusing. Also included here are short sets from comedians Pete Dominick (10:10) and Joe Matarese (10:54).
While to a certain extent it's disappointing to see Artie repeating a lot of the same jokes and rehashing so much of the same material, much of this stuff is still pretty funny, even if the 'Artie loyal' will have heard it all before. Image's presentation is a bit disappointing. The sound is okay and some of the extras are decent but the non-anamorphic transfer is definitely a big strike against this release from a technical perspective at least. Lange's fans will probably want it, the curious should rent it first.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.