Friday, February 1, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Stupid Comedians: Best of Comedy Central Presents (******6/10)

I just received a DVD called The Best Of Comedy Central Presents. It's eight comedians, each doing a half hour stand-up show on Comedy Central Presents, and brought directly to DVD as a collection courtesy of Paramount. It is hit and miss, much like most comedians. It's presented in a three-hour, uninterrupted show, broken up by the outros to comercials and the intros back from commercials. You would think Comedy Central could take this stuff out, just like they have taken out the commercials themselves. It's just distracting and breaks up some fine performances. And some lousy ones. I would recommend the disc, But I would recommend selecting just the individual performances of the good comics, and leaving out the other ones. These are the eight comics:

Lewis Black. Unfortunately, the DVD starts with his show, and it is the best one on here. I am just an enormous fan of Lewis Black, his delivery is superb, his material is smart, and no one delivers a punch line quite like Black with his pointed finger and his growly, focussed anger. Hilarious stuff, but I would have liked to see this one close it out. It starts off the DVD at it's highest point, and it's tough to get better from here. This is one of the classic Black bits, the one about seeing a Starbucks in the same building, only across the street, from another Starbucks, and how that clearly signals the end of the world. Amen.

Dane Cook. The DVD goes from the high point to the low point. I still don't get Dane Cook. I think maybe the appeal of Cook is that...he is kind of attractive? For a comic? Most of them are fairly ugly. Cook is muscular and good-looking enough to be cast as Jessica Simpson's love interest. And Jessica Alba's. And, one can only assume, soon enough Jessica Biel's and Jessica Rabbit's and maybe Sarah Jessica Parker's. In this one he imitates an alien from Alien, a snake...none of it is funny, it goes on too long, and I just don't get it!

Jeff Dunham. If there is anything that smacks of "dated", it's vaudeville routines. Second only to vaudeville is ventriloquism. Jeff Dunham is a ventriloquist. He is a fairly good one, although he tries to go too fast and slips up every now and then. His material might seem clever and racy, and he can get away with it because it comes out of a puppet and not him, and he just has to look shocked at what the puppet says, but after watching the rest of the guys on this DVD, there isn't anything that shocking about what his puppets say. For his act to work, he should be far more offensive, and I just don't think he has it in him. Pretty boring.

Jim Gaffigan. A pleasant surprise for me. Jim Gaffigan is very funny. I had not seen him before, and his material is very clever, very well-worded, and delivered in a great, almost-incredulous manner. The biggest surprise on the disc, I have seen Gaffigan in small roles in a movie or two, but never doing stand-up, and he is a welcome inclusion here.

Mitch Hedberg. I have always liked Mitch Hedberg. His delivery is stoner-slow, not Steven Wright slow, but laid back and solid. His material is very good, and just about every line he says is funny. The best bit in this set is about his neighbour who would bang on the wall when he played his music too loud. And Hedberg yells back "go around!" Every line is great, and his delivery may just be the best of the bunch. But I still prefer Lewis Black. Because I love him.

Demetri Martin. Again, a guy I have never seen before doing stand-up. In fact, I had never seen Martin before, anywhere. And he's pretty good. He uses props, but not Carrot-Top type obnoxious props, just a big paper pad like the kind your boss brings to your board meetings, and a few well-placed surprise "guests" toward the end of his set. Not classic material, but worth watching once. Also a very laid-back kind of comic, real smooth delivery and some good material.

Carlos Mencia. Again, a guy I just don't understand. What is the appeal of this man? I guess it's the fact that he will cross all lines, insult every race, say terribly shocking, politically incorrect things? But...if he is constantly telling you how controversial he is, if he hits you over the head with the fact that he insults, really. Everybody. Ummm...we get it. Get on with the funny stuff. But he doesn't seem to have much funny stuff to say. He appears to have no original material at all, so he just insults people and stereotypes groups. Frankly, I don't mind this kind of humour if it is done with wit and inciciveness, a la Sarah Silverman, but Mencia isn't even close to that level. Skip him.

Brian Regan. It seems sad to me that the Comedy Central people chose to end this DVD with the most bland and blase of all the comedians. Better than Dane Cook, better than Carlos Mencia, but nowhere near as good as Hedberg or Black. Very run-of-the-mill routine, mostly about food, and with a few very good jokes here and there. Sort of a let-down. I would watch him, but I would watch him first.

In fact, here is the order in which the comics should have been presented:
Brian Regan
Jim Gaffigan
Demetri Martin
Mitch Hedberg
Lewis Black
No Cook or Dunham or Mencia. Just those five, and that way you start slow, move up, come down a little again, then hit the big ones to close. That is how I recommend setting up your DVD player for this one. In this order, well worth it!

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