Robert Klein: Unfair & Unbalanced
HBO // Unrated // $19.97 // December 14, 2010
Review by Ian Jane | posted January 3, 2011
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The Movie:

Robert Klein is getting up there in years and he wants you to know it. In fact, he spends a large part of his latest one hour standup comedy special, shot by HBO at the Amaturo Theater in Fort Lauderdale, talking about just that. Given the fact that Klein has been doing standup off and on for the better part of thirty five years and that he's got all this experience under his belt, what with this being the latest of nine specials he's done for the fine people at Home Box Office, you'd think he'd have pretty much nailed how to keep an audience laughing, right? Sadly, that's not the case. Klein has been plenty funny in the past; his appearances on Letterman and Bill Mahr's talk shows have proven this, but here he launches misfire after misfire at an audience that doesn't seem to care.

Before Klein gets to the bit about aging, where he talks about how his acting roles have changed and how he no longer gets to do love scenes the way he used to and how it's harder to go to the bathroom now than it's ever been before, he takes a few jabs at the recent political scene. Fair enough, politics is an easy but wholly deserving target for the wrath of an intelligent comedian. He starts the show off with a song about Obama and then attacks both left and right wing politicians alike, though the right gets hit a little bit harder than the left. This segues into bits about current day controversies such as gay marriage rights, the use of medical marijuana and the outsourcing of American jobs. All of this is pertinent to the world we live in and ripe for discussion but here Klein more or less states the obvious and audience reaction reflects this. Or, more accurately, the lack of an audience's reaction reflects this.

There are bits and pieces that might make you grin and bits and pieces that might make you think a little bit. A Joan Rivers joke goes over well and an anecdote about a concert experience from his younger days is amusing enough but here Klein seems more interested in randomly bursting into a song that may or may not be related to whatever it is that he was just talking about. This gives the whole performance a really odd, stilted and disjointed tone where Klein seems to pop randomly from one subject to the next without care for flow, consistency or cohesion. It's almost as if he had a bunch of jokes that didn't really fit anywhere else so he shoehorned them into this performance - some parts are funny, but not enough, and even those that are don't really gel with those that are not.

Klein's self deprecating humor is sharp and occasionally witty and he does a fine job of putting the finger at himself and taking pot shots at his own career and lifestyle, but his tendency to talk over the audience and their occasional bursts of applause means that he spends a fair bit of time yelling and awkwardly raising his voice without in any way benefiting his material. The end result is an hour long misguided rampage of sorts, wherein Klein proves that, yes, he is still funny, but without enough focus to make the audience, live or in front of the DVD player, care enough. At least the orchestra that accompanies him on his bizarre musical attacks is talented enough, but that doesn't save this otherwise lackluster standup performance from the very depths of mediocrity.

The Blu-ray:


HBO delivers a good 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with sharp image, strong color reproduction, and nary a compression artifact in sight (though given the short running time of the feature and the barebones nature of the disc, this isn't surprising). There is the odd spot of haloing and shimmer that creeps up here and there but it's so slight that you probably won't notice it much unless you're intentionally looking to find it. There's no print damage to speak of and the image is clean and clear from start to finish.


The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix sounds just fine. Dialogue is crystal clear and the laughter from the audience fills out the surrounds quite nicely giving the performance a more lifelike soundscape that really does a fine job with the material. Most of the surround activity really just comes from audience reaction sporadically throughout the performance so don't expect a particularly riveting listening experience but overall, the audio sounds just fine. There are no subtitle or closed captioning options available.


Aside from a simple menu screen, there aren't any extra features included on this DVD.

Final Thoughts:

Robert Klein: Unfair And Unbalanced is, unfortunately, uninteresting and unfunny. Established fans of the man's work might find some merit in this but otherwise this is easily a disc you can live without. The material is current enough but it's not delivered with much thought or style and is instead a loud fairly dull routine. Klein's an intelligent man and has been plenty funny in this past - this time around, however, he falls very short. Skip it.

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