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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » David Alan Grier: The Book of David - The Cult Figure's Manifesto
David Alan Grier: The Book of David - The Cult Figure's Manifesto
Comedy Central // Unrated // July 22, 2003
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 19, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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David Alan Grier has popped up on innumerable sitcoms and movies over the past twenty years, but aside from his regular gig emceeing Comedy Central's "Premium Blend", he'd never really showcased his stand-up talents for any great length of time nationally. Comedy Central gave the seasoned comic the opportunity to strut his stuff on a special this past Spring. In a turnaround faster than most high-profile feature films, "The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto" is hitting store shelves a few short months after debuting on cable.

Despite the lengthy, mildly ominous title and the imagery of David Alan Grier decked out in Communist garb, they don't really have any bearing on the content. David's topics are varied, kicking off his set with a detailed description of his six and a half hour jaunt in the L.A. Marathon, filling the audience in on what to expect mile-by-mile as you inch closer to that seemingly unattainable twenty-five mile mark. The early signs of breakdown are insatiable hunger and thirst, culminating in looting, hallucinations, bleeding nipples, and the discovery of discarded, used tampons along the way. He talks a bit about his childhood growing up in Detroit, such as the crushing feeling when some malicious bastard would take a calculated dump in the pool, or how his folks decided to change things up one Thanksgiving a few years back and serve Tofurky instead of the usual holiday bird.

Following some rants about drug use across generations (including an impression of a stoned Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his famous speech) and how he avoids getting his ass kicked, much of the rest of his set revolves around love and sex. Most memorable is his Discovery Channel-style demonstration of the intricate mating habits of married couples. David goes on to chat about the giddy intoxication of falling in love, the largely ignored dangers of having sex, his quest for a woman that's been ridden hard and put up wet, and finally, how a lovely young lass in a widely circulated Internet video seen fellating a horse represents his female ideal.

"The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto" was well-received when it debuted on Comedy Central less than three months ago. Always one to go against the grain, though, I didn't think it was all that wonderful. I've heard great things about David's stand-up act, but his intros on "Premium Blend" generally fell flat for me. I thought perhaps that the expanded platform would be different, and though there are some extremely funny moments in the special, they're too few and far between for my tastes. His delivery in "The Book of David" is top-notch, and the best moments are when he ventures into the bizarre and over-the-top. His increasingly disturbing description of the L.A. Marathon (mislabeled as New York on the DVD's packaging) is hysterical, as were his very physical recreation of a sex-crazed husband stalking his prey like it was a gazelle and his infatuation for an anonymous Internet bestiality star. So much of the material is just middling -- stoned historical figures, rehashed sex jokes, bar brawls -- that David's inspired delivery failed to generate much interest. As was the case with Wanda Sykes' "Tongue Untied" (which also hits DVD on July 22nd), it seems like a case of a talented performer given an opportunity to really showcase their talent on a wide scale and filling it with lackluster material.

Video: "The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto" is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The pre-credits sequence is razor-sharp and looks phenomenal, though the bulk of the stand-up is closer in appearance to what I'd typically expect to catch on cable. There are no real flaws to be found -- some scattered video noise, almost certainly present during its initial broadcasts -- but the level of clarity seemed to fall ever so slightly short of the impressive looking "Sweat the Small Stuff".

Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (192Kbps) is typical for a stand-up release, with the majority of the audio limited to David cracking jokes on-stage and the audience bursting into hysterics. The sparse music throughout sounds rich and booming, accompanied by a hefty low-end kick. All I really go into this sort of DVD hoping to find is clear, intelligible dialogue, and "The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto" more than delivers. Similar to "Sweat the Small Stuff", the audio benefits from DPLII processing, spreading David Alan Grier's comedy primarily across the front channels, with some slight echo appropriately appearing in the rears. Applause, laughter, and assorted crowd noise are accordingly spread across all five speakers, and that immersion makes it feel as if I'm actually watching a stand-up performance rather than just perched on my couch watching TV.

As seems to be the norm for Comedy Central releases, there are no subtitles, closed captions, or alternate language tracks.

Supplements: A pair of promos for the special (1:08) follow the charismatic Communist leader theme, followed by six minutes of so of additional standup. "New York is a Melting Pot" is about David's encounter with a group of dozens of Puerto Rican skiiers. Alan Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, and a recovering Shaquille O'Neal are name-checked in "My Favorite Basketball Players". David goes on to explain why "We Need a New Kind of Soldier" -- urban warriors, lunatics, death row inmates -- "soldiers that know how to whoop ass...and do it for fun and amusement." This additional footage is uncensored, by the way.

The last of the extras on the Bonus Materials menu is an appearance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" from April 2000, running around four and a half minutes. David pitches a Simon and Simon knockoff series to Jon, vocalizes flange-drenched "pimp music", chases Jon around the set, and manages to avoid plugging his new movie, Return to Me, altogether.

There are three "Comedy Central Quickies". "The Ugly Truth", a snippet from Colin Quinn's "Tough Crowd" (3:50), is a holdover from the Kevin James disc. In it, Laurie Kilmartin, Greg Giraldo, Patrice O'Neal, and Greg Fitzsimmons debate the place of the overweight and unattractive in the workplace. "Trading Spouses" (8:03) is a sketch from "Chappelle's Show", spoofing "Trading Spaces" by having a dull white-bread family swap husbands with a misogynistic smack-talker. In a bit from "Crank Yankers", the rather accurately titled "Sporting Goods Spokesman" (4:10), David Alan Grier calls...surprise!...a sporting goods store, offering his services as a spokesman.

All of the disc's extras are full-frame and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbps) audio.

The 4x3 main menu begins with some brief animation. Although there isn't a Chapter Selection submenu, the special has been divided into seven 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: "The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto" is a decent DVD release of a stand-up special that didn't really impress. Considering the reasonable list price of $14.99, fans of David Alan Grier that didn't get a chance to catch "The Book of David" on cable can pick up the DVD without breaking the bank. I'd recommend picking this disc up as a rental or checking out the special on Comedy Central before shelling out any cash. Rent It.

Related Links: Comedy Central's Book of David site includes a backstage interview and a video clip from the special. BreakTV also has some footage that can be streamed off of their website.

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 "Kevin James: Sweat the Small Stuff" 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.
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