As the great Steve Martin once said: "Comedy is not pretty"... OK, I have no idea what that has to do with anything. Let me start this review again:
As the sagacious Carol Burnett once put it: "Comedy is tragedy plus time"...wait, what the hell does that mean? Weak, weak opening. Start again:
As the prolific funnyman Mel Brooks once remarked: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."
*ding ding ding ding ding*
Actually, Brooks's definition of comedy is as good as any (although his is certainly funnier.) What makes you (the reader) break out into guffaws of childlike, impish laughter can make me (the reviewer) burst into uncontrollable torrents of tears. To this day I think Tootsie is one of the unfunniest exercises in "comedy" ever conceived. Or Some Like It Hot , for that matter. Someone please tell me, why is it that so many people break into giddy is fits of hysterics the second they see a man in a dress? To me that goes over about as well as a screen door on a submarine.
My point – don't worry, we're getting there – is that stand-up comedy is the most difficult type of media to either recommend to or from which to dissuade a potential viewer. Your enjoyment of a program like the Funny Ladies Collection will all depend upon whether or not you find any of the women in this collection remotely entertaining, and even then the particular routines presented in this set might not meet with your satisfaction.
Funny Ladies runs nearly four hours over four DVDs, and features thirty-two comediennes as they hawk their wares in a series of taped routines. Ironically enough, each performance is bridged by some of the most obnoxious and condescending commentary you're ever likely to encounter this side of a corporate Help Desk farm. Nothing smacks of patronizing schmaltz as much as the narration between, say, Judy Gold's and Caroline Rhea's set, when an off-screen male voice chuckles to himself and utters something along the lines of "Ha ha ha! Gosh you gals are swell! Say! Here's another funny little dumpling coming our way..." I'd like to find this schmo and lock him in a room with Camille Paglia for an hour or so.
So the question really remains: is this set of material actually funny? The short answer: not really. Don't get me wrong, I did laugh at a few segments. Ellen Degeneres always cracks me up. So do Margaret Cho, Judy Tenuta, and Sarah Silverman. I'm a Janeane Garofalo fan for life, and the hysterical Curb Your Enthusiasm cast members Susie Essman and Wanda Sykes are also represented here. But these talents are not represented at their best. The clips look as if they were filmed for late-night network television sometime between 1988 and 1993, and many of these ladies are captured at the beginning of their careers. And forget the claim on the back of this set that the material is "uncensored"; you can catch more bawdy material watching The Sound of Music run through one of those "CleanFlix" DVD players.
The main problem is there is way too much filler and unfunny material. There's over a dozen names here that I couldn't recognize, and with good reason. And what in bloody hell are freakin' Morgan Fairchild and Twiggy doing here? Morgan, you're beautiful and luscious and you make those Old Navy commercials a hoot, but as a stand-up comedian you're about as effective as feathers on a frog.
So while there are too many female comedic talents out there worthy of our attention - many of them showcased in this very set - the Funny Ladies Collection does little to engender laughter or hilarity. In short: this is four DVDs worth of hackwork. The talent in this group deserve better.
Funny Ladies Collection features performances by:
Filmed for television, Funny Ladies is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The quality of the video is adequate. Satisfactory. Workmanlike. The image is a little shimmery, but this is probably due to the age and quality of the original taped source material. Colors are neither strong nor muted, but rather averagely rendered. Image detail is spotty, but again this is shoddy source material. You're not going to get your socks knocked off, but you'll get a decent presentation of the material.
The audio is presented in both monaural Dolby Digital 2.0, and is about as impressive as the video. That is to say, it delivers the soundtrack in a somewhat basic, no-frills manner. The routines are delivered cleanly, without distortion or hollowness. There is some occasional hiss, but nothing major.
Zilch. Zip. Zero. Nada. Bubkis
Feh. You can get funnier routines watching anything on Comedy Central, and that pretty much comes free with your cable. It's actually a little disheartening, because the Funny Ladies Collection features many extremely talented women who have proven themselves time and time again as some of the funniest comedians of our time. You'd never know it from this set, though. If you're in dire need or serious laughter, you can pretty much skip this collection entirely and watch Conan O'Brien or Futurama tonight instead.
1 Please note: I nicked the opening to this review from another I review I wrote for DVD Talk. It's pretty apropos for this DVD set, so I figure if you're gonna plagiarize, plagiarize from the best. Unfortunately, Tommy "The Turd" Robelli threatened us with some serious litigation, so I had to resort to ripping myself off, hoping I wouldn't subconsciously leave a newspaper-wrapped fish in my favorite armoire. Remember though: even Hitchcock remade his own movies. So did Vadim, but look how that turned out. My point? Eat more fish.