Comedy Central has aired innumerable stand-up specials since it emerged from the ashes of Ha! and the Comedy Channel twelve years, but "Sweat the Small Stuff", featuring The King of Queens star Kevin James, marks the first time the cable channel has devoted an hour of stand-up to a single comedian. Taped at the Hudson Theater in Manhattan, "Sweat the Small Stuff" debuted on Comedy Central on July 23rd, 2001, and nearly two years later,
its home video division is releasing the special on DVD with a handful of supplements dug out of the archives.
The title of his special is appropriate, focusing almost entirely on observational humor about the little annoyances of life. One of James' first rants is about sharing a pizza with a group, greedily calculating the number of slices everyone had and hellbent on ensuring that no one has more than his fair share. He also vents about random people bugging him in line at the bank (or "on line...", as they apparently say outside of my home state of South C'lina), the unnecessary spouting of technical jargon at the airport ticket counter, waiting anxiously for an oscillating fan to rotate his way, unwelcome fitness advice, fighting bunched-up cheap underwear, miring through long, sappy romantic cards for meaningless anniversaries, diverging from the expected phone number rhythm, unnecessarily slow answering machine messages ending with indechiperable phone numbers, the exhilaration of having exact change at fast food drive-thrus, and the agony of one of those necessary coins slipping through your fingertips into the carseat sargasso. The King of Queens fansite KingOfQueens.net has a brief mp3 from the special if you want a quick taste.
Kevin James' approach to comedy is fairly clean -- there's nothing here that'll alienate his prime time CBS audience -- and often physical. The gestures and physical movements that punctuate his jokes get some of the biggest laughs, particularly James' demonstration of inept attempts to remove underwear that's crept into decidedly unpleasant areas, all without the use of hands. Frequently funny and taking full advantage of its expanded length, it's easy to see why Comedy Central picked "Kevin James: Sweat the Small Stuff" as one of its early DVD releases.
Video: "Kevin James: Sweat the Small Stuff" boasts an excellent full-frame presentation, appearing sharper and more detailed than what I typically see on Comedy Central over digital cable. The special was, not surprisingly, shot on video, so the usual laundry list of flaws associated with film transfers obviously don't creep in at all. Colors are spot-on, and the image isn't marred by edge haloes or compression artifacts. "Sweat the Small Stuff" looks about as perfect as can be realistically hoped for, and regardless of how much I typically like to nitpick about some inconsequential flaw in a presentation, I can't find anything to harp about here. Very nice.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (192Kbps) is pretty much what I went in expecting, considering that for the most part, it's one man, a microphone, and an audience. The only other audio elements are the music that play over the bumpers leading into commercial breaks and some piano tinkling during James' closer about women meticulously picking out cards at Hallmark. The comedy comes through cleanly and clearly, which is about all I was really looking for. The audio benefits from DPLII processing if it's an option, spreading Kevin James' dialogue primarily across the front channels, with some slight echo appropriately appearing in the rears. Applause, laughter, and assorted crowd noise are spread across all five speakers, and on occasion, there'll be a distinctively located cough or something similar that makes it apparent that this is indeed a stereo track.
There are no subtitles, closed captions, or alternate language tracks.
Supplements: Several of the DVD's extras aren't listed on the back of the packaging, beginning with a pair of ads for the special (1:08), featuring Kevin James filming some overly elaborate promos complete with choreography, green screens, and a wire harness.
The featured supplement is ten minutes of Kevin James' appearances on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", both times plugging The King of Queens. He and Jon chat about the Mets, their greatly varying perks as celebrities, cooking turkey for the holidays with Bunsen Burners and flash friers, and cabbie headwear.
Rounding out the extras are two "Comedy Central Quickies". The first is Stephen Lynch on "Friday Night Stand-Up", strumming a lullaby on his acoustic guitar to explain the concept of divorce to his young daughter (3:54). A clip from Colin Quinn's "Tough Crowd" entitled "The Ugly Truth" follows, also running just shy of four minutes in length. Laurie Kilmartin, Greg Giraldo, Patrice O'Neal, and Greg Fitzsimmons debate the place of the overweight and unattractive in the workplace.
All of the disc's extras are full-frame and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbps) audio.
The 4x3 main menu begins with a bit of animation from one of the special's bumpers. Though there isn't a Chapter Selection submenu, "Kevin James: Sweat the Small Stuff" has been divided into eight chapter stops. The disc comes packaged in a keepcase, with a generic insert detailing other Comedy Central stand-up DVD releases and a plug for the cable network's Friday Night Stand-Up.
Conclusion: Along with an above-average stand-up special, Comedy Central has tacked on a decent assortment of extras and slapped on the pretty attractive price tag of $14.99. "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" still airs fairly regularly on cable, including a broadcast less than a week after the release of this DVD. Its free 'n legal availability in its original form makes even this reasonably priced DVD a little tougher to enthusiastically recommend. Stand-up nuts that caught "Sweat the Small Stuff" when it made its basic cable debut and The King of Queens fans ought to find this DVD release well worth the asking price. Recommended.
Related Links: Comedy Central's Kevin James site features a backstage interview and a chat transcript.
Other Recent Comedy Central Reviews: Also hitting stores on July 22nd from Comedy Central is a reissue of Dane Cook's Harmful If Swallowed, complete with a bonus DVD of stand-up footage, along with "David Alan Grier - The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto" and the recent stand-up Wanda Sykes special, "Tongue Untied".
Boring Image Disclaimer: The screen captures in this review are compressed, slightly digitally sweetened, and don't necessarily reflect the appearance of the footage on DVD.