Patrice O'Neal - Elephant In The Room
Comedy Central // Unrated // $14.95 // February 22, 2011
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted February 21, 2011
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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Graphical Version
In 10 Words or Less
The big man brings the funny

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Stand-up
Likes: Opie and Anthony, Patrice O'Neal
Dislikes: Race-based comedy

The Show
Though he did see time on a popular network sitcom (as one of the warehouse workers on The Office) Patrice O'Neal's never broken through to the mainstream, seemingly content to work on the filthy fringe of stand-up, where the sit-in stars of the Opie and Anthony show reign supreme. It's actually a bit surprising he's never hit big, as his act isn't that different from the old stand-bys of the comic circuit, focusing on race relations and the differences between men and women, like many who take the comedy club mic. The thing is, O'Neal's open and frank way of approaching these topics is what both keeps him under the radar and makes him so very good.

This special, shot as part of the New York Comedy Festival, is classic O'Neal, as he talks about the way white women are valued over black women by society, his view of how men should handle themselves in a relationship with a woman and sex in general. It's nothing you haven't heard before, especially if you've heard him with Opie and Anthony, but he makes it all fresh thanks to his performing ability. He gets loud, he gets silly, he uses voices, he gets into his jokes. His joke about never learning to spell restaurant is funny on its own, but when he plays the part of himself and his tormentor, it becomes hysterical. That goes double when he talks about how women can get sex when they want it, delivering the punchline with a simple, yet effective grunt, which is followed by a line that made me laugh out loud.

It's hard to pull out a handful of highlight bits from a set so strong, but there's something amusing about when O'Neal shows some vulnerability, like when he talks about his love of dogs (complete with a ridiculous parody of those depressing Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials) or his awful health, which includes the most disturbing, yet funny description of a diabetes symptom I've ever heard. Bobbing and weaving through his jokes, coming back to the inherent comedy in modern relationships again and again, he walks a fine line between enlightenment and misogyny, with an incredible bit about the need for a sexual harassment holiday, a fantastic analogy between aging women and Cracker Jacks and a wrap-up that expresses consolations toward the fairer sex for all they suffer through. If you can put up with a bit of saucy language, any adult should be able to enjoy his comedy.

Part of what makes this special so much fun is the way he interacts with the audience, a group that certainly enjoys his comedy, yet seems a bit scared of what he'll say next. After all, he starts the show by thanking the audience coordinator for positioning a well-endowed woman in the front row, before enthusiastically praising a black fan's white companion and then inquiring how one audience member would kill his girlfriend. This could come off a bit harsh in the wrong hands, but O'Neal is so matter-of-fact and joyful about how he talks to the crowd, tying them into his act seamlessly. The results make the audience at home feel more a part of the proceedings and make for a more enjoyable show.

A one-disc release packed in a standard keepcase, this DVD has a static, anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to play the special, select chapters and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.

The Quality
This disc looks great, with O'Neal and the stage coming off sharp and full of nice detail, along with the audience, which gets a lot of screentime. The color is appropriate for the setting, and there are no issues with dirt, damage or digital artifacts.

Disappointingly, this disc only sports a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, which is solid, but it lacks the enveloping mix that the better stand-up DVDs feature. There's nothing wrong with the center-balanced, front-speaker sound here, but it certainly could be better.

The Extras
Unlike many stand-up DVDs, this one has a decent spread of extras, starting with four deleted scenes, which run a bit more than 13 minutes. The bits, which are a bit cliched for a comic, including making fun of a woman not laughing and women being cold in bed and unable to tell stories, but O'Neal does a fine job of selling them.

Also cut from the special, expectedly, is an eight-minute performance by warm-up act Harris Stanton, who, based on this short set, may be as funny as O'Neal. Very self-deprecating, he talks about his less than impressive professional background, including his experience as a security guard and a professional baseball player, earning some legitimate laughs.

The last extra is O'Neal's Comedy Central Presents episode from 2003, running 21 minutes. It's great to get these earlier performances on Comedy Central DVDs, as you get to see how O'Neal's changed as a comic in the past seven years, even if he was excellent back then as well, and touched on many of the same subjects. He was more topical though here, talking about Michael Jackson and the D.C. sniper.

The Bottom Line
It's a rare day when Patrice O'Neal isn't funny, as his insight into race relations and personal relationships is dead-on and lets him crack jokes about these areas with pin-point precision. This 77-minute set is more of his usual hysterical comedy, using his crowd to spark some very funny moments, and the DVD looks and sounds good, with a nice package of extras to make it worth a pick-up.

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