Truth be told, I don't know a whole lot about Sinbad's career, but he strikes me as one of those guys whose extremely low-key level of success is entirely based on his audience's awareness of his presence. He's spent his career on the same C-list as celebrities like Richard Simmons or Andrew Dice Clay, but I don't think his name inspires the same kind of love-him-or-hate-him reaction that they might...or much of a reaction at all, really. He's just around or not around, and thanks to the Comedy Central special Sinbad: Where U Been? (and a hilarious guest appearance on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), I guess he's around again.
For this 90-minute special, Sinbad takes the stage for around 75 minutes of stand-up and fifteen minutes of music. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, I was worried: despite obvious enthusiasm on Sinbad's part, and an extremely enthusiastic audience, I just wasn't feeling his exaggerated expressions and audience-baiting one-liners, but as the act continues, he starts to dole out more insightful gags (well, as insightful as your average stand-up comedy), and the special gets funnier.
As Sinbad points out repeatedly, he's 53, or was at the time this special was recorded, and most of his material deals with his age. He covers well-tread comedic ground, but elevates sitcom-ready material with his delivery (I'm actually surprised he's not on a sitcom, given that Charlie Sheen does far worse work with equal basic talent, and rakes in one of the highest TV-actor paychecks). The other half or so is focused on romance, and while there's some good stuff ("What you want in a woman is someone who understands the signs of a stroke!"), his perspective is obviously unbalanced when it comes to the differences between men and wome; while he asks women what they don't like about their men, and explains why they're the way they are, he never asks the guys the same question. None of it seems to bother the women who are actually at the show, but I found it a tad distracting.
During the last third of the show, the comedian's act loses a little of its focus. Unlike some comedians, it doesn't feel as if Sinbad has rehearsed and honed this act to death, which is both a blessing and a curse. My knowledge of stand-up is very limited and all contemporary (gotta love Lewis Black), but I'm always pleased by a good recurring joke. The loose-limbed style of Sinbad's act doesn't seem to lend itself to anything like that, but I did appreciate his interaction with the audience, even if he spends a little too much time asking them the same question.
Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), Sinbad is a fairly talented musician, although he's smart enough to surround himself by numerous skillful musicians to cover for him in case he makes any mistakes. Not only does he open the show with a short drum routine, he finishes things off by playing bits of a Kool and the Gang song, which is met with enthusiastic applause. I didn't mind Where U Been?; it's a perfectly pleasant watch. Yet, sitting in front of my computer screen only an hour or two later, I find it hard to remember the majority of his material, funny or not. For his own sake, he might want to spend more time staying in the public eye: when he's here, he's enjoyable, when he isn't, it's his loss.
There's not much to say about the artwork for this release: it has Sinbad on front and two bad jokes on the back. No insert is included.
The Video and Audio
Comedy Central's anamorphic widescreen presentation (approximately 1.66:1, with a tiny bit of pillarboxing on the sides of the image) is run-of-the-mill for a low-budget, digital television production. Colors smear a tiny bit, the image is flecked with artifacts in the shadows, blacks are weak, and there appears to be some edge enhancement here too (look at the logo on Sinbad's drum during the intro). None of this stuff will make a difference in the enjoyment of the special, but it's visibly flawed. Dolby Digital 2.0 is the same story: fine, but unimpressive. No subtitles are provided.
The disc's one bonus feature is "Behind the Scenes With Sinbad" (17:55), which starts out like an interesting interview with the comedian but quickly turns into a tongue-in-cheek affair where Sinbad talks about the awe-inspiring ways he impressed the various collaborators who helped him put on his show, and then it cuts to the collaborator in question claiming he sucked. It's just dopey as opposed to painfully stupid, but the interview was more interesting.
If you're a fan of Sinbad, I say give it a rent. If you aren't, go about your lives.
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