Just For Laughs Stand Up, Vol. 3: Launching Pad:
The Montreal International Comedy Festival has been knocking 'em dead with up-and-coming talent for decades. The festival isn't only about standup comedians on stage, though, as a brief extra feature on this DVD attests. Among other delights festivalgoers might enjoy are 'huge nighttime parades,' events that sound mysterious to me. But this DVD is just about the laughs, featuring 13 well-known comics from early in their careers.
Though I used to enjoy listening to Eddie Murphy get Delirious on cassette back in the day, I've never been one to really seek out standup comedy DVDs such as this one. Though I got plenty of laughs from this collection, it's not a package that will change my mind, either. Not being familiar with the set-up for the Montreal Festival, I'm not sure how long each comedian gets to wow the audience, but on this collection, each comic is shown for about 5 minutes, scant time to develop a rhythm while cranking out the 'A' material. There are plenty of famous names among the 13 here presented - not a woman among them - yet only a minority of material presented demonstrates why these guys have become so successful.
Most of the work is standard observational stuff, though Rowan Atkinson puts on an almost mime-like physical show. It's also interesting to see, just through the sheer number of comedians included, how many rely on other forms of repetitive physical mimicry and sound effects to create a cumulative effect. Yet overall not everyone seen here appears ready for prime time, though glimmers of their future selves are evident. Following is a list of performers, the year from which their clips were taken, and brief notes of the highs and lows, when notable:
1. Ray Romano - 1991: Romano's mild situational humor is pretty low-key, except for the part where he predicts Bluetooth phones.
2. Dave Chappelle - 1993: Chappelle looks quite young here, and his edgy, racially-charged humor is truly just in its formative stage.
3. Jeff Foxworthy - 1991: Foxworthy's pretty basic men/women shtick is actually pretty funny.
4. Drew Carrey - 1993: Carrey's rather manic and profane, resulting in some high octane material.
5. Dane Cook - 1997: I can see why so many people don't like this guy, though his idiosyncratic presentation seems pretty modern. A few good laughs to be found among the irritating tics.
6. Flight of the Conchords - 2004: The boys from New Zealand do their comedy-folk-soul-hip-hop numbers - 'It's Business Time' and 'Rhymenocerous and Hip-hopopotamus' to great effect. Hilarious.
7. Jeff Dunham - 1991: Dunham's ventriloquism is amazing, if not terribly insightful or all that funny. Having a character named a 'Woozle' is always a bad idea in my book.
8. Rowan Atkinson - 1989: The rubber faced and bodied comedian (plus assistant) perform a sort of remedial comedy routine about dating - Atkinson never speaks - proving himself a master of physical comedy.
9. George Lopez - 1996: The widely loved comedian just isn't on point here, hammering home racially-based semi-absurd physical comedy that tries too hard to connect.
10. Steve Harvey - 1993: Though Harvey virtually screams his entire routine, his story of a snorkeling mishap is at least compelling from a narrative standpoint.
11. Russell Peters - 2000: The East Indian comic scores a solid 75% score with his familial reminiscences. To wit; "Somebody's gonna get a hurt real bad!"
12. Tim Allen - 1990: Allen's monkey grunts (mysteriously described as a piggy voice in an early joke) now seem like a gimmicky crutch, nonetheless the humor and delivery is rock solid.
13. Jon Stewart - 1992: It's weird watching a young Stewart do standup, and it seems clear now that his current gig is a better fit, but for Stewart fanatics this will be welcome footage.
There really isn't enough time devoted to each comic for the performers to get into a rhythm or build up the momentum needed for a truly effective performance. Furthermore, including 13 stars casts a fairly wide comedic net, too wide to establish any theme other than that of performers-before-their-prime. Hardcore comic junkies might get a kick out of this, but the casual comedy fan won't achieve full satisfaction.
This 1.33:1 ratio presentation won't wow AV junkies, and I suppose it's not really meant to. The image is reasonably sharp and detailed, with good-looking colors and saturation levels. No compression artifacts were noted, meaning that on the whole, this DVD looks about as good as your standard broadcast TV presentation: No great shakes, but nothing really wrong with it either.
Audio follows similar suit, employing Dolby Digital Stereo to average affect. Music only appears interstitially between segments, and sounds OK. All of the comedians are perfectly intelligible, and their dialog inhabits mostly the mid-range.
There aren't really any extras to speak of. Something labeled Laughs on the menu leads to chapter selections for each comic, and there is also a three-minute Promo for the Montreal International Comedy Festival.
This 85-minute DVD features 13 before-their-peak comics performing at the Montreal International Comedy Festival. As such, not all the material is that great, but there are still a good many laughs to be had. It's mildly entertaining to see these folks before they were big stars, but with about 5 minutes of material each, there isn't enough time for them to build rhythm and momentum. Serious standup aficionados might enjoy this sampler, but probably already have lines on more substantive selections from their favorites, so I'll leave this with a mild Rent It recommendation.
- Kurt Dahlke
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