If Janeane Garofalo ends up reading this, I want her to know, when I was watching the Blu-Ray of her show If You Will, I had a chubby black pug snoring on my lap for a good portion of it. He didn't wake up at all when I was laughing out loud to your routine comparing Teabaggers to the show "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," but when you brought out your collage of sleeping puppies, and you lifted your voice an octave or two, he immediately raised his head thinking you were talking to him. That's impressive.
Can we be best friends now?
I saw Garofalo's live concert in Portland, Oregon, several years ago, and it was a fantastic show. This recent stand-up set was filmed in front of our liberal neighbors to the North, at Seattle's Moore Theatre--where I once saw Morrissey, for what it's worth. It's not worth much in relation to the actual comedy program, I will give you that, but this kind of conversational digression is what makes Garofalo's act uniquely her own. Throughout If You Will, she strays from one point into another, free to roam like she's having a chat with a couple thousand of her pals. Surprisingly, she actually keeps a guidebook for her act on a music stand up on stage with her to remind her where she's going. Sarah Palin, whom I am sure Janeane could have a field day with, sounds forced when reading notes off her hand; imagine how she would be with a whole outline.
I know, I know. Making fun of Sarah Palin could get me hate mail. But if you are upset that I am talking about Palin, then why are you even reading a review of a Janeane Garofalo concert? That's like me reading a review of Larry the Cable Guy's stand-up and being shocked that the reviewer said something stupid and unoriginal. I would never go there. Besides, my point is that Garofalo is a woman who walks it like she talks it and she is so personable doing it, I can't help but want to go along on that perambulation with her.
If You Will covers a variety of topics, some of them political, most of them in some way personal. Hers is not a standard set-up-and-punchline brand of comedy, she is more anecdotal, sliding the funny lines into observational tales about other people and a string of stories about herself and her foibles. Mixed in are pop culture references too nerdy not to be genuine, and the occasional righteous indignity. There is a certain cathartic "me too" to be had; like listening to the aforementioned Morrissey, there is comfort to be found in hearing someone else feels the way you do. Like Bill Maher, she talks about her atheism, but without the smugness. Like Patton Oswalt, she's sick of the crazies among us being mollycoddled. She has an extended routine about why she won't have kids that I know made me feel less alone in the world. She likes puppies, I like kitties. Can't we all just get along? (I was pugsitting. There was also a pug puppy with me. Yes, I protest to much.)
For as freeform as If You Will seems, Garofalo does know how to structure a set, and she goes out with a bang. All of her chatter builds up to a wonderfully absurd verbal essay about the perfection of Natalie Portman that is the kind of killer bit that a veteran comedian has to know will send the audience out with a smile. It worked for me. At a scant 65 minutes, I could have done with an encore, but Janeane Garofalo: If You Will - Live in Seattle may be better for following the old showbiz axiom, "Leave 'em wanting more." Like a Ben and Jerry's pint, maybe this was just enough. Kudos, good madame.
The 1080i high-definition transfer on If You Will is presented at 1.78:1. The image is quite nice. The lighting is warm and there is nice detail to be seen in the background curtains, etc. It's mainly one set-piece, obviously, mostly focused on Janeane Garofalo. You can see all the detail in her many tattoos, and she looks natural and healthy, good skin--the BD is super flattering. (She said she's a narcissist, I'm feeding that. Don't judge.)
The extras are presented with the same specs, though since one of them was shot on the fly, it looks a little less crisp.
The main audio is mixed in DTS-HD 5.1. It sounds good, with Garofalo's voice given the most importance. The only other sound is the audience, and they are mixed in nicely. It doesn't have the surround atmosphere of actually being in the audience, but that's personally not all that important to me. I'd usually end up sitting next to a guy who can't shut up, anyway. Or worse, someone texting.
The extras are presented in uncompressed PCM stereo.
There are two short comedy sketches. One is called "Pets," and it's like a standard "getting to know you" DVD extra about audience members giving Garofalo a special pet. The other is called "Representative Richard Martin (R)," and is about a U.S. representative ambushing Garofalo outside the Moore Theatre in Seattle and forcing her to recreate her defunct Majority Report radio show so he can be a guest. According to Google, Representative Martin is a real elected official from Ohio, so points to him for being a good sport. Both the skits are fairly funny, though they steal no thunder from the main program.
Recommended. Janeane Garofalo: If You Will - Live in Seattle is a fine set from one of our more undervalued comedians. Janeane does a whole routine on the public's "what ever happened to her?" perception, and this very funny stand-up show is a good reminder that we really should see more of her. The humor is timely, incisive, and also warm and friendly. More importantly, it's very funny. Huzzah!
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.