The Awkward Comedy Show is ostensibly a chronicle of the voices of "alternative black comedy"--idiosyncratic stand-ups who perform nerdy material outside of the mainstream. Don't run away, they're not that weird--just enough to be interesting. (Then again, maybe I'm more familiar with "alternative" stand-up than I am with whatever's popular with the kids these days...)
The movie showcases four different comedians and features host Marina Franklin, who tells a few jokes in between each set. You can't say there's no variety in the acts. At one point, the movie transitions from the hyper, constantly moving Eric Andre to the wonderfully muted Hannibal Buress. Add in the absurdity of Baron Vaughn's song about penises and lollypops and Victor Varnado's lament on forever being known as "the black albino," and you've got yourself a fun 90 minutes. None of these guys are quite at the level of the greats who can keep people roaring for for a full hour, but in this sampler format, they don't need to be. Each earns some laughs, then moves aside for someone new.
One standout is the wonderfully deadpan Buress, of whom Varnado says, "I had never seen someone so sedate with skin that dark." Buress has a talent for delivering rye observations within silly jokes, and picking out the absurd details of his subjects, like Grand Theft Auto's refusal to let him kill his bitchy girlfriend or Nelly's preposterous lyrics about "manicured toes." Vaughn also comments on hip-hop lyrics, comparing modern rappers bragging about their money to people filling out their tax forms.
Varnado directed the film in addition to performing in it. He maintains an intimate feel, keeping the camera close on the comedians and staying focused on the performances, with no cutaways to random audience members.
The film does, however, venture beyond the stand-up. Before each comic's set, an introductory sequence establishes the performer's personalities by showing the other comics talking about their colleague. There are also basic but fun animated sequences in which each comic (besides emcee Franklin) shares a true story about his life.
The backstage footage was shot on a crummy digital camera (to keep things intimate, Varnado says in the commentary), and then converted to black-and-white and processed to give it a kind of lo-fi old-school look. Unfortunately, the effect is unconvincing, and the image is blocky and ugly. These scenes, however, make up a small portion of the film, and most of the movie was shot in HD.
(Note: The audio on some of the extras is much more raw, contains more pops and noise, and would not be acceptable in the feature.)
The conversational audio commentaryfeatures Varnado, Buress, and producer Jay Stern. There are fun tangents and some interesting discussion of the stand-up business, but nothing essential. Varnado also tells the story of his first audio commentary, from a film he acted in, and how the producers of that DVD rejected it.
There's also, say it with me now, a trailer.