I first remember seeing Harland Williams in the (I think) underrated comedy ensemble film Down Periscope, but he has also gotten a few lines to chew on in Farrelly Brothers movies like Dumb And Dumber. I was remotely aware of his knack for impersonations and his stand-up comedy, and when I heard he had a new special that was available to view, I figured I would roll the dice and take a chance on it.
The special, titled A Force Of Nature, is a change of pace from the normal stand-up comedy specials filmed in either a small comedy club or a slightly larger, more production-friendly theatre for the comic to show his wares. Williams decides to take the production out to the Mojave Desert, performing on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere as perhaps some attempt at comedy deconstruction. He explains his motivations for doing this early on, by explaining to the camera that he feels that the traditional comedy special's cuts to an audience member(s) laughing or applauding in agreement to a comic's joke feels like a prompting for the viewer to do the same. And to be honest, that intent is certainly something I agree with in principle.
In execution however, Williams tends to oversell the fact that you SHOULD be laughing, and this 'overcooking' of sorts winds up making a break in between his comic rants one or two beats longer than it should be. During said rants, Williams touches on many things that other comic folks have railed on in the past like technology, romance, love, hate and ultimately nature, the latter of course fitting considering the backdrop. I found some of the jokes funny, other jokes not so much, and others sounded familiar, in that they may have been said by other comics. In the case of the latter, I am pretty sure one was said before by George Carlin (the one about trying to throw away a garbage can being the one that stuck out for me). This is not to imply that Williams stole material, primarily because I do not think he did. Just in between the laughs and the pauses, that's the way it hit me, that's all. In between the jokes, Williams becomes aggressive with bird in the area and ultra light flyers that are interrupting the show. They are, in effect, serving as hecklers, for a show that seems to be not about the usual comedy club/stand-up mechanisms, but to each his own I suppose.
Do not get me wrong, I think that A Force Of Nature was a bold experiment by Harland Williams, and I found myself laughing at the jokes (his use of cinnamon to take advantage of desert wins while making a joke was funny, even as he kept coming back to it) more than I did grimacing. But the emphasis on not doing a comedy special here may have made this comedy special worse than your usual comedy special. Better to deconstruct something and go all the way with it, rather than doing callbacks (or things that would be reminiscent of it) and distract from an otherwise decent performance.
A Force Of Nature is presented in 1.78:1 and enhanced for 16x9 televisions, and the result is about what one would expect. The exteriors look good and the mix of real elements and computer-generated ones look solid as can be. The image is devoid of edge enhancement or haloing, the several colors and flesh tones on Williams are reproduced accurately and without concern. It was nice to watch a standup special that was shot outdoors, that's for sure.
Two-channel Dolby stereo here, which was also about what I expected it to be. Dialogue sounds clear and consistent and with the introduction of crows and fake drones into the listening experience, one would presumably expect some activity in the secondary channels, but there is none here. The activity is all in front of the viewer and sounds as clear as can be, which was basically the objective to achieve for this disc.
I did not anticipate seeing an extra with this disc, but Williams provides an interview about the idea for the special. At two minutes, he discusses his motivations and why he liked doing this. It is quick and forgettable.
A Force Of Nature gives Harland Williams' energy a chance to shine in this stand-up special in the most open of mic nights, on the broadest of stages. Despite some persistent reminders about it to us, by him (and the occasional flat joke), it actually is a good set considering the relative boldness of the experiment. Technically the disc is fairly workmanlike and is virtually barren from an extras perspective. I would seek it out, but only on Comedy Central (or a related yuck-yuck channel) first before making a rental decision.