Richard Lewis still stands as the one of the most neurotic, troubled comedians in the business. A famous stand-up (although I also can't wait until they eventually release "Anything But Love" on DVD, the sitcom that starred Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis) whose sharp material sticks with you, Lewis comes across on-stage like a cross between Jerry Seinfeld (who I think was influenced by Lewis in some ways) after drinking a few cases of Red Bull, carrying the emotional baggage and the kind of nervous wreck nature of Larry David (Lewis has been wonderful as a friend/foil for David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm".)
This 2-DVD set provides a trilogy of the comedian's beloved specials: Showtime's "I'm in Pain" and the cable ACE Award-nominated HBO specials "I"m Exhausted" and "I'm Doomed". The first of the programs, 1985's "I'm In Pain", sees Lewis at his best, riffing on popular culture, his upbringing (visiting relatives and playing "musical arguments", being told by his shrink that he had an "out-of-family experience" as a kid) and his issues (as a kid, he ate M & M's "one at a time, with a glass of water.") One of the most fascinating things about the comedian is clearly visible in this effort - Lewis seems to somehow be able to fit about 90 minutes of material into an hour. Lewis delivers with an extraordinarily rapid-fire style, and yet he remains incredibly focused and distinct. In the beginning of the program, Robin Williams notes that Lewis "he's gotten a lot of standing ovations when people get to their house." There's so little time between jokes (it often seems as if Lewis doesn't take a breath during the performance and beyond that, the material seems free-flow and improvised) that you get the laugh, but when you have time to think about it later, it's even funnier.
"I'm Exhausted" sees Lewis hitting Chicago and continuing to hit on some of his favorite topics, with almost entirely different material. The comedian's delivery isn't quite as fast paced on this special, but it's still incredibly funny. Some of the best bits include the comedian's irritation with holidays and trying to find gifts for every occasion ("I got my mother a self-complaining oven.", "For my birthday we had a depression fair."), bad relationships (a girlfriend who told Lewis, "I depreciate you.") Throughout the special, we get dream sequences of Lewis, lying exhausted in a bed and being visited by such guests as Jackie Collins, Gary Shandling and Larry King.
Finally, "I'm Doomed" is the last program on the set, with Lewis continuing to explore troubles with his family (the nightmare of going to a play on Broadway with his family), issues with relationships and more topics, such as meeting Deniro, 17 years of therapy, worries about starting a family of his own and more.
VIDEO: The three episodes are presented by Image Entertainment in 1.33:1 full-frame, and appear to be taken from tape elements. Sharpness and detail aren't great, but at least the picture appears consistent and fairly crisp throughout. Some very slight shimmering and a couple of trace instances of pixelation were the only concerns spotted throughout the programs, and they really weren't much distraction at all. Colors looked bright and nicely saturated, with no smearing.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack provides clear dialogue throughout.
EXTRAS: The main extra is a pretty superb one - a new 90-minute interview that's split into three parts. The interview will be a real delight for fans of the comedian, as he goes into a detailed and very funny discussion of his early career and talks about the preparation and development of the three specials that are featured on this disc. There's some classic tales from Lewis discussed throughout the interview, during which Lewis almost never sits - he walks around like he's on-stage.
Final Thoughts: "Concerts From Hell" is a marvelous set, offering a trio of incredibly funny specials from Lewis that - incredibly - cover the same topics, but rarely overlap bits. The set offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a fantastic interview with the comic. Highly recommended.