Since their rise to popularity, Broken Lizard has struggled for consistency. Super Troopers has merits as a dumb comedy (it's somewhat staggering to think that 2011 is the film's 10th anniversary), but the group's follow-ups -- the mediocre Club Dread, the weak Beerfest, and the embarrassing, unofficial effort Dukes of Hazzard -- have failed to live up to even that lowbrow bar of success. Now, we have Broken Lizard Stands Up, which may inadvertantly provide insight onto the group's problems: if you go by this special, only two of the group's five members are particularly funny.
Broken Lizard Stands Up is split into five segments, with a sketch or bonus segment in between each one, with a staged sketch at the very beginning as icing on the cake. During each one of these segments, one cast member (in order, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Jay Chandrasekhar, and Kevin Heffernan) come out and do a single stand-up routine, presumably that they wrote on their own. Talk consists of refined, sophisticated topics such as masturbation, farting, sperm banks, turning into a woman, and gay fetishes. The performers provide a mix of probably-true-but-also-exaggerated to completely invented material, including at least one costume and one prop. The special aired, in edited form, on Comedy Central; the presentation here is an Uncensored version running 78 minutes.
Of the five, I think Stolhanske's bit is probably the least funny. He puts on too much of a visible persona when telling his story, which detracts from the experience; in a sense, he's telegraphing the punchlines through his delivery. It's also not a particularly great story, involving his attempts to get his wife pregnant. Second is Lemme, whose routine seems to be slightly scuttled by the delivery and, interestingly enough, the format of the special. In the behind-the-scenes video, you can see him offering up at least one alternate performance, and for whatever reason, it plays better. It's as if the viewer actually needs to be in an audience, away from him, to get the full effect of his routine. Finally, Paul Soter is fine, but his material is essentially unmemorable. He puts one good visual concept out there -- "gay zombie porn" -- but an hour after watching the feature, I had trouble remembering anything else he talked about.
Thankfully, the special saves the best for last: Chandrasekhar and Heffernan easily save the day. Chandrasekhar is a master of deadpan comedy, which he combines with several completely absurd stories, such as an all-male threesome or recounting a time when his dick fell off. It's clear that Chandrasekhar has honed his routine down to its barest elements, and since it's patently ludicrous, he doesn't get trapped in the same "I'm just like you, don't we all have the same experience" tics Stolhanske, Lemme, and Soter get bogged down in. Heffernan's story, meanwhile, is just a well-told, well-written bit about why someone should never be naked in a movie ("my kid's kindergarten teacher has seen me naked"), sold by Heffernan's very light, charming self-deprecation, and enthusiasm for the material.
Between the routines, there's a terribly unfunny and instantly dated sketch where Heffernan plays Susan Boyle, a pleasant story about Lemme and Heffernan meeting Patrick Swayze, and the whole thing closes out with all five as a group recounting stories about how they met. In the last bit, there's a looseness to the gang's back-and-forth that's missing from the other collaborative bits, and has been missing from their movies. Broken Lizard Stands Up isn't bad, but it isn't that great either. Perhaps an improv stage show would open up new arenas for them.
Comedy Central sends this package over in a cleanly-designed package with some nice colors. More than anything, I just appreciate that both the front and back are actual posed photographs of the Broken Lizard gang rather than something Photoshopped together at the last second. The case is an eco box, and there is no insert.
The Video, and Audio
Broken Lizard Stands Up is offered in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, which bears the usual rough edges of digital video (a few jagged edges, slightly harsh lighting, mosquito noise during darker shots), but colors are strong, and detail is pretty good. Nothing remarkable either way.
Dolby Digital 2.0 is clear and clean. Nothing really happens in this particular stand up special except the five guys talking and the crowd cheering, so it works just fine. English subtitles are also provided.
"Super Troopers Sketch" (7:05) is a lightly amusing audience participation sketch with the five guys dressed up as their most famous characters. Worth a chuckle. "On the Road With Broken Lizard" (22:22) is a surprisingly enjoyable (if slightly overlong) behind-the-scenes peek of the guys on their tour, recorded with handheld video cameras. There's even a(n extremely low-res) surprise cameo for television fans of the 1970s. The one silly thing is that some of their material (like Soter's increasingly disturbing warning to the front row audience) is funnier than the material included in the special. Hmmm. Finally, "Backstage Pregame Long Cut and Outtakes" (11:22) is, as labeled, an extended version of the opening sketch (meh), a series of outtakes from the same scene (interesting to see Chandrasekhar directing), plus a deleted piece of Soter's stand-up.
Even curious fans of the gang can probably just wait until Comedy Central airs the special again to catch Chandrasekhar and Heffernan. Skip it.
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