The boys in the comedy troupe known as Broken Lizard have a patchy track record at best. Although I enjoy their brand of comedy, they don't always deliver it with great consistency. As funny as Super Troopers was, I wasn't prepared for the awful Club Dread or the utterly average Beerfest. After The Slammin' Salmon went a long way towards restoring my faith in them, they seem to have beaten another hasty retreat from anything resembling success with their latest work. Broken Lizard Stands Up represents a true oddity in their catalog and is something that only die-hard fans will want to seek out.
I'm not even sure that this set of stand-up comedy qualifies as a true Broken Lizard project. Other than a previously filmed introduction, the meat of the show is broken up into 8 chunks with 5 of them being dedicated to solo sets by each of the guys. Of the remaining 3 segments, only a single one actually features the entire gang on the stage at the same time. This seems like a strange way to approach a show that hinges on the group's collective appeal. To use a broad analogy (so sue me), let's say in their heyday, the Beatles had announced a show only to have John, Paul, George and Ringo go onstage in turn and perform a few songs solo. Admit it, you would have felt cheated. Sure, the Beatles performed but they didn't really perform as the Beatles, did they?
Moving beyond the questionable wisdom of splitting up the group on stage, there is an obvious question that needs to be answered for any stand-up performance. Will it make you laugh? Your response to this will depend on your fondness for individual members of the troupe as well as your preference for big gut-busters over tiny chuckles. To me, Jay Chandrasekhar and Kevin Heffernan have always been the breakout stars of the group and that holds true during this performance as well. Unfortunately, in order to get to their bits we have to sit through some really uneven sets from Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske.
Steve Lemme gets the show off to a rough start by laboring through a one-note set dedicated to masturbation and some associated tangents. He isn't the most expressive of performers and tends to prefer a more deadpan, conversational style. Other than a weird bit about having sex with teddy-bears, this is a fairly snooze-inducing introduction to the night. Soter fares a bit better than Lemme by touching on a few different topics during his set. Unfortunately, his choice of material (the joys of touring, disgusting male habits, unreasonable wives) is too clichéd to really stand out. Stolhanske goes back to focusing on a single topic with his set but at least it's one that hasn't been tackled too many times before. He talks about the difficulties of conceiving a child and enumerates his embarrassing experiences at sperm banks. While more personable than Lemme and Soter he still doesn't elevate the energy level of the show.
Chandrasekhar spikes the show with his quirky and unpredictable set. He definitely has the most original and varied material of the night including unforeseen side-effects of drinking soy milk as well as a short story of why Willie Nelson is a dick. After the meandering pace of the show thus far, his zany presence is quite welcome. Heffernan follows Chandrasekhar with a more personal set that still manages to be light and breezy fun. He talks about the perils of on-screen nudity (in Super Troopers) and how that one decision has influenced his life since then. Although focusing on a single subject (like Lemme and Stolhanske), he approaches it from a number of hilarious angles. Altogether, he delivers the most polished performance of the night, with Chandrasekhar being a close second.
After all this talk of the solo performances, you may be curious as to what the guys actually did together on stage. A quick bit features Heffernan in drag as Susan Boyle while Lemme, Stolhanske and Soter play talent show judges. The entire gag is based on Boyle rattling off all sorts of sex acts she hasn't engaged in. It's sophomoric but coming after Lemme's solo set, it brought a smile to my face. Another segment has Heffernan and Lemme talking about the first time they met Patrick Swayze. It's a shaggy dog story that goes on a bit too long but acts as a genuinely sweet tribute to the fallen star. The final segment is the only one that features all the guys on the stage at the same time. They describe how they first met at Colgate University with the highlight being a painful battle of wills between Chandrasekhar and Stolhanske.
The show was presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Given that the material by its very nature didn't demand a very dynamic presentation, I found the release to be visually adequate. The colors were bright and saturated although there was a noticeable red push under the bright lights. I also saw a bit of shimmer during some of the darker scenes.
The audio was presented in a 2.0 Stereo mix. With a stand-up show, I don't ask too much of the audio presentation. I want to clearly hear the comedian and feel like I'm right there with the crowd as they enjoy themselves. This audio mix got me halfway there. While I could hear the guys as they performed, the crowd noise seemed a bit too muted and detached as if it had been mixed too low. It was occasionally distracting but not a deal-breaker.
We start things off with a Live Super Troopers Sketch (7:05) where all the guys get in on the act along with some willing participants from the audience. It doesn't feature a ton of laughs and recycles too many bits from the film to feel like an original sketch but it is noteworthy for at least including the entire troupe on stage.
Next up, we go On the Road with Broken Lizard (22:23). This segment takes us through soundchecks and portions of performances from a number of cities including Milwaukee, Iowa City, Washington D.C., Boston and Philadelphia. While the video quality isn't always great, we do get to see a number of funny bits that strangely didn't make their way into the final filmed performance of the main feature. If you were disappointed by Stolhanske's set, check out this featurette to watch him cut loose with his guitar and update an oldie (but goody) with 'roid fueled rage.
The final extra is a series of Outtakes (11:22). Most of these scenes emerge from the preparation involved with the brief filmed intro. It showcases the serious side of sketch comedy and highlights how much practice is required for even the seemingly effortless bits.
Despite having a few positive elements, this stand-up performance from the boys of Broken Lizard is too uneven to be truly enjoyable. Hinging on a decision that flies in the face of logic, the show splits up the group forcing us to sit through their solo comic stylings when we just want to see them bounce off of each other. Chandrasekhar and Heffernan at least entertain with sets that are original and polished. The others don't fare as well. Dyed-in-the-wool Broken Lizard fans may find enough in here to make the release a worthwhile purchase but everyone else should Rent It.