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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » National Lampoon Live: New Faces: Vol 1
National Lampoon Live: New Faces: Vol 1
Image // Unrated // August 24, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted August 31, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
New is not always better...especially in comedy

The Show
National Lampoon's attempts to build their brand (or, more correctly, the attempts by the rights-holders of the Lampoon name) have seen extensive use of the home video market. A new series of stand-up comedy DVDs filmed in Los Angeles are the latest releases, including this disc, a collection of supposedly up-and-coming comics. Unfortunately for the Lampoon franchise, they are either not paying enough or have bad talent scouts, because after reviewing two of these DVDs, I've been disappointed in what I've seen.

Note: Most of these guys were also seen on "Last Comic Standing", with the exception of Shang Forbes, and nearly all of them are managed by Barry Katz, the disc's producer, which screams of conflict of interest, a matter I'll get into later. There's also more of the editing in of audience reaction that was seen in "Down and Dirty."

This release has an advantage over its fellow Lampoon special, "Down and Dirty", as the host, Frank Caliendo ("Mad TV") performs a funny warm-up act before introducing the acts. His impersonation of NFL announcer John Madden is hilarious, no matter how many times he does it. That it's very truthful in its insanity only makes it more enjoyable. Unfortunately, each act is followed by an interview with "model" Bronwyn Leigh. Though they are more informative than the clips on "Down and Dirty", they're still rather meaningless.

Up first among the featured performers is Rob Cantrell, who has the college-stoner crowd in his sway with his odd, off-balance delivery. His jokes about sex, drugs and alcohol aren't bad, but he seems to have trouble focusing on the crowd as he wanders the stage. He's almost like an energetic Mitch Hedberg.

Cantrell is followed by Alonzo Bodden, a big black man in a bright blue shirt. Bodden travels tried and true routes, talking about airport security, racism and nature. His act is well paced, with a good command of the crowd and excellent vocal and physical control, but his jokes aren't that great. With a better writer, he could do very well.

The token female comic arrives in the form of actress Bonnie McFarlane, whose quiet, lacksadasical style could put even the most coffee-soaked insomniac fast to sleep. Her "hip" outfit pegs her as someone trying to look younger than her age, right down to her snappy cap. Her act is the usual city girl/I'm-interested-in-sex,-isn't-that-so-bad-routine. If she mumbled a bit more, she might be completely inaudible, which might be funnier.

Gary Gulman is the most veteran of these "new faces", and the funniest, performing a very down-to-earth set. His jokes focus on inventions, surprises and sports. His comedy is pretty universal, with very good delivery, thanks to good use of voices. There's nothing that particularly stands out about his act, but it's better than the rest of this bunch.

The final comic, Shang Forbes, is also pretty funny, performing an energetic urban act that bounces from topic to topic at light speed. His sexual comedy is funnier than most, as it's not based in misogyny. In fact, his jokes about women would make them laugh harder than guys would. While not PC, Shang's material about sex with midgets is some of his best work.

This DVD could be a treasure trove of early appearances by tomorrow's top comedians, but more likely, it might serve as proof that NBC's hit reality series "Last Comic Standing" is fixed. On Cringe Humor, the connections between the comics, the producers of the show and the big comedy clubs is laid out. It's an interesting read, and it puts these National Lampoon DVDs in a different light. If Cringe Humor's story is true, this disc is simply an informercial for Barry Katz' comics, which would be pretty disingenuous.

The DVD
On one disc, you get 82 minutes of comedy, presented in widescreen with a 5.1 soundtrack. A bonus feature is accessible from the main menu, along with scene selections, done with composite photo of all the comics standing on stage. It's a different way to do the standard menu, but they should put names on the it, so you know who you're selecting.

The Quality
OK comedy, great quality. Like its "Dirty" brethren, this disc looks simply fantastic. Seemingly shot on film and presented in widescreen, this DVD has some of the best looking stand-up I've seen. The colors reproduced are vivid and crisp, and there is nothing about the visuals that is disappointing.

The audio is also the same as the "Down and Dirty" disc, with the audience fed to the rear speakers, and the comedian in the center channel. In the back speakers, you get some of the sound from the speakers in the club, causing an odd echo. In theory, it should be like being at the club, but it doesn't work consistently.

The Extras
Just like "Down and Dirty," this DVD includes a featurette with behind-the-scenes footage, hosted by Boogie, a guy who may just be a comic in disguise. He interviews people on the street, and the comedians on this disc. A mix of Dave Chappelle and Eddie Griffin in braids, he does a good job of keeping things moving. It was a lot more entertaining than I expected after viewing that other National Lampoon DVD.

The Bottom Line
If you're a fan of "Last Comic Standing," you've seen most of these acts, and have your opinion of them. But if you haven't, this disc is worth a look. It starts off pretty weak, but picks up speed with the last two acts. Isn't that why we have scene selection?


Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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