In 10 Words or Less
It's like a Super Young Comedians Special
Loves: Stand-up, several comics here
Likes: Several of the others
Dislikes: Surpringly, no one included
Hates: Short sets
When I used to have HBO, I loved watching the Young Comedians Specials on on-demand, as it was fun to see the big names when they were first starting out, along with the unfortunate souls who didn't enjoy the same break-out success. Some of them were still doing the same polished act decades later, while others had raised their game from rough, though promising beginnings, while still others have devolved into catchphrase-slinging hacks. (On a side note, I miss Dennis Wolfberg. What an underrated comic.)
This DVD offers some of the same perfect-hindsight benefits, except everyone here has been a success, including some of the biggest stand-ups of the 21st century, as well as TV's most popular comic performers. Captured at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, Canada, from 1989 to 2004, these short sets, around four to eight minutes each, include definitive bits you may know by heart, like Ray Romano's joke about his mother serving food or Jeff Dunham's puppet Peanut, to runs that later were spit-shined into memorable performances, such as Dane Cook's Speak n' Spell segment and Flight of the Conchords' classic "Business Time."
The Launching Pad concept isn't a perfect one, as many of these acts were already well-established by the time they took the stage in Montreal, with Jeff Foxworthy having already won an American Comedy Award for best stand-up, and Tim Allen's grunting Tool Man persona already firmly in place. While it's true that their biggest successes were in front of them in the form of the many series they would headline, like Rowan Atkinson's soon-to-arrive Mr. Bean and Dave Chappelle's mega-success 10 years later, these appearances likely didn't break these acts. That said, it's fun to see a very young Jon Stewart doing the political comedy that would make his a star on The Daily Show or see a small Mexican boy do a spot-on imitation of George Lopez.
Oddly, there's not a single female comedian in this line-up, since usually they horn some odd choice in as a sacrifice to the PC demons. That's not to say there aren't funny female stand-ups (off the top of my head you've got Elvira Kurt, Judy Gold and Sarah Silverman to start) but too often in collections like this, some blazer-wearing middle-act gets thrown in for "diversity," and invariably slots in as the weakest performance. Here, where every act has had at least one TV series of their own, it would have taken quite the distaff contender to fit in (even if Russell Peters is probably only included as a nod to the festival being Canadian.)
Here's the line-up:
- Ray Romano (1992)
- Dave Chappelle (1993)
- Jeff Foxworthy (1991)
- Drew Carey (1993)
- Dane Cook (1997)
- Flight of the Conchords (2004)
- Jeff Dunham (1991)
- Rowan Atkinson (1989)
- George Lopez (1996)
- Steve Harvey (1993)
- Russell Peters (2004)
- Tim Allen (1990)
- Jon Stewart (1992)
This disc is packaged in a standard keepcase with a promotional insert, and features a static full-frame menu with options to watch the whole disc, select acts and watch a promo. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The video for this disc is pulled from broadcasts covering 15 years of festivals and is as much as 20 years old, but it all looks good, but certainly not great, the way you expect old television to look, getting progressively better as the footage gets more recent. There's a good deal of video noise and the odd juxtaposition of soft details and harsh video sharpness that marks older video. There are no issues with digital artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks deliver a straight-forward audio presentation, with clear speech from the comics, and no appearances of distortion. Considering the age of some of the segments, the audio is solid.
There are no extras included on this disc, outside of a Just for Laughs promo reel covering all of the organizations' products.
The Bottom Line
If you're interested in seeing some of the biggest names in recent comedy history in the on-stage equivalent of baby pictures (along with other more mature performances) here's your chance. While some seem to have emerged from the comedy womb fully-formed, others are still developing, making for an interesting time capsule. The disc looks and sounds good, but provides nothing beyond its decent 85 minutes of festival laughs.
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.