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Craig Shoemaker Live:That's a True Story
That's not to say I know the guy. In fact, before sitting down to review Craig Shoemaker Live: That's a True Story!, I had barely heard of him, and I generally keep up with stand-up comedy. But his stage presence and material give him a friendly vibe; he is the correct answer of the all-important presidential polling question, "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?"
In his first full-length stand-up DVD (a quasi-autobiographical independent film, The Lovemaster, features bits of his stand-up in between scenes), Shoemaker shows some excellent chops, the kind of skill that earned him the 1997 American Comedy Award for Comedian of the Year. But this routine is not quite up to the standard of other DVD stand-up releases, and the differences between Story, a taped gig, and a plotted and planned special such as any Chris Rock release are glaring.
Shoemaker is a storyteller as much as a stand-up, and his material tends towards the personal stories rather than the familiar setup-punchline formula. The title of the disc is in reference to how he ends most of his "bits" – it takes about 90 seconds for him to say it twice at the beginning of the disc.
Some representative material:
On "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy": I've got five gay guys telling me I'm an idiot. Last week they're teaching me how to dance, and straight guys just don't dance like that. Straight guys have one dance: The Simulated Boxing Dance.
On Feng Shui: It's an ancient Chinese word that means "Put your husband's [expletive] in the garage."
Then, there is "The Lovemaster." This is the bit that gave Shoemaker a small share of fame and also inspired his independent film of the same name. Here's the entire routine: He lowers his voice and says a lot of silly pick-up lines, littered with bad puns and double-entendres. That's really it – so if that sounds funny, Shoemaker is your guy.
The routine suffers from a lack of planning, as well. The disc was taped at a regular club date in San Jose, and meanders at times. There's a quasi-funny running joke about a woman who leaves to go to the restroom, there's the mocking of a bachlorette party and a routine based on playing Army as a kid that involved audience participation. While the jokes would surely be funny if one was sitting next to the targets, it loses a lot in the translation to DVD.
The live taping looks to have been done on the cheap; there is some lens flare early in the disc, there is pixelation at times, especially on quick camera cuts and moves and a flat picture.
The provided 2.0 track is perfectly acceptable. Shoemaker can always be heard over the applause and laughter. The cuts in material, though, are not covered up well; the gaps are very noticeable.
The only extra is 12 minutes of interview footage with Shoemaker. There's no great insight, just introductions to his son and footage of him going about his daily business.
Shoemaker is not my kind of comic – he actually seems to like life and not be completely jaded. But if the bits above appeal to your funny bone, Craig Shoemaker Live – That's a True Story! is likely worth a rental.