In 10 Words or Less
Good stand-up and annoying characters do not mix
Loves: Stand-up comedy, The League
Likes: Nick Kroll
Dislikes: Non-traditional stand-up specials
Hates: Bobby Bottleservice, Fabrice Fabrice
One of the stars of FX' outstanding guys sitcom The League, where he plays amoral lawyer Ruxin, Nick Kroll has become a staple in improv circles, playing any number of creepy/annoying characters to slimy perfection. But he's also a talented stand-up comic, bringing some elements of those personas to his act, performed here at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It's occasionally dark and extremely funny, even if it does travel some well-worn comedy roads.
Comics have been cracking jokes about airports, kids and pets since the first Chuckle Hut opened, and Kroll is no different, but his bits manage to still be original.When he talks about what a bad father he would be, it serves mainly as a lead-in to a Michael Jackson bit told hilariously through his answers to his inquisitive future child. Meanwhile his verbal and visual demonstration of the differences between dogs and cats, which shows that Tim Gunn should voice every cartoon cat forever more, is one of the best examples of that old comedy standard in a long time. His airport segment is great as well, with his short bit about using bouncers as security being just about perfect. This release adds in far more of his act that was cut from the Comedy Central broadcast, so anyone who found the special sadly lacking in Kroll will find the DVD far more palatable.
As funny as Kroll is, adding more of him can't entire overcome the presence of his characters, who take up an unfortunately large amount of the special and are nowhere near as funny as his jokes. From the opening scenes that introduce them, to the welcome from guido security guard Bobby Bottleservice, to the interludes with creepy old liberal Gil and his buddy George (Paul Scheer), to the annoying spoken-word interruption by gangsta-glam caterer Fabrice Fabrice, the characters drag the special to a grinding halt. While it's appreciated that he's trying something different, it's a stand-up special and the expectations are that there will be funny jokes from beginning to end, and that's not quite the case here.
Fortunately, it's not all bad when Kroll Prime isn't on-screen. For as aggravating as Bobby Bottleservice is, he has a couple of funny gags, including a joke about earthquakes that's far funnier than it should be, and Kroll's Spanish DJ character El Chupacabra, previously seen on Reno: 911!, serves as the funny narrator of the special, with one memorable scene involving him, a baby, an old man and a goat. Throw in the best performance by Mindy Kaling, possibly ever, and the sketches are practically excusable. Well, except for Fabrice Fabrice.
This 63-minute special arrives on one DVD, in a standard keepcase. The disc features an animated, anamorphic-widescreen main menu (with rather extensive non-optional commentary by Kroll), with options to watch the special, select chapters and check out extras. There are no audio options or subtitles, but closed captioning is included.
After watching this special during its high-definition broadcast, this anamorphic widescreen transfer feels like a step down, as expected, but for standard rdefinition it looks pretty good. The cool colors of the stage are displayed well and there's some nice fine detail on Kroll's face (making his various styles of facial hair clearly visible. There are no issues with dirt or damage and no noticeable problems with digital artifacts. All in all a fine presentation.
The sound disappoints if only because it's a plain vanilla Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and not the 5.1 presentations that serve stand-up comedy so well. Aside from that, it does the job without issue, offering Kroll up front and center with a balanced mix that keeps him clear and clean.
There's more than just a few extras included, which is something of a shock for fans of stand-up DVDs. Unfortunately, three of the six are about Fabrice Fabrice, starting with the 7:21 Q&A, where he answers fan questions on stage (though one assumes they weren't actually submitted by the fans.) This one is all over the map, and is mildly amusing in points, but mostly it's just a bunch of silliness that's appeal relies on your view of the character. The short 2:50 Fabrice after show featurette is somehow less engaging, as an obviously fatigued Kroll, in character, interacts with the fans. Somehow, for a guy whose had such improv success, he comes off as slow on the draw here. There's one more Fabrice extra, as you get 1:45 of outtakes from his segments in the special, and this is yet one step lower than the rest.
Bobby Bottleservice gets the outtakes treatment next, with 2:12 of cuts from his segments that are also not all that engaging. Fortunately, the final two extras pick up the slack. On the Oh Hello outtakes, featuring Kroll's older character Gil, Paul Scheer saves the day with his improvs, which are truly funny. Then there's outtakes from El Chupacabra's sponsor announcements, which are a bit repetitive, but still fun.
The Bottom Line
If this special was an hour of Kroll on stage with a mic telling jokes, I would be hailing it as a new classic of stand-up comedy, but his character sketches kill the momentum and are honestly not too funny, especially when they follow Kroll's far funnier jokes. The DVD looks and sounds fine, and there's a surprising selection of extras, making it well worth checking out, even if it could have been better with a dash more Kroll.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.