In September of 2010 began the release of a series of comedy specials that may very well go down in history as four of the best ever. Four very unique and different comics, three from Boston, one from Australia. Four regular guests on the Opie and Anthony show. Peers. Edgy, intelligent, relatable and daring at the same time. All guys who came up, hammered away at comedy for 20 some odd years, and peaked in their early 40’s… or, hopefully, just started their ascension to stratospheric, and dare I say, Carlin-esque careers. (Editors Note… Mr. Jefferies has informed us he’s only 34… whoops. Oh well, he acknowledged our existence, so we’re ecstatic.)
Any comedy fan can only hope that these guys continue to put out the kind of quality, groundbreaking work on film they did this past year on a consistent basis. CK, Burr and Jefferies appear poised to do just that, all with multiple releases in recent years of epic proportions. Patrice is another monster, who has respect from peers and fans alike, but this being his first DVD release, packed with many recent and topical bits… one can only wonder just how much great stuff he did before that we never got to see on tape. And hopefully all his talk of quitting comedy for good, is just that… talk.
When comedy historians exist, which they may someday, I think it can surely be argued that although the great Boston comedy boom; the fabled, legendary scene that erupted in the 80’s (documented brilliantly in “When Stand Up Stood Out”) was indeed incredible… the greatest crop of comedians to come out of Boston were in fact those that rose from the aftermath of that great era. Lenny Clark, Steven Wright, Denis Leary, Bobcat Goldthwait, and lesser known local heroes like Don Gavin paved the way for a group of comics that are literally shaping the evolution of stand up comedy, and perhaps defining a generation.
Dane Cook was the first to make it big time… but to me most of the best comics working right now: Doug Stanhope (releasing his own DVD shortly), Louis CK, Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal, Joe Rogan… each arguably one of the top comics on the planet… all came out of that same early 90’s Boston scene.
So without further adieu… it’s a pleasure to review/recommend the following DVD’s.
BILL BURR – LET IT GO
Bill Burr’s “Why Do I Do This” was an absolute masterpiece. I became an instant fan when a fellow comedian lent me the DVD, and have been following the hilarious Burr via his Monday Morning Podcast on a weekly basis. The man is a comedic dynamo, who can literally make anything hilarious. A delightful mix of anger, disgust, self-loathing, alpha-male with a dose of conspiracy culture, logic, sensitive decency and silliness, it’s very hard to dislike the guy, on the sheer grounds of his honesty. Above all, Bill Burr is Bill Burr, he rarely puts on an act, and is as genuine as they come.
The reason I put this DVD first, is I think it was so good, it actually rocketed him into the number 1 position on my imaginary, ever shuffling, top working comedians list. Louis CK was firmly in number 1 for a few years, jostling with Stanhope in my books… but I’m putting Burr on top right now. Make no mistake, Louis is an absolute machine, and HILARIOUS is… fucking hilarious… but Let It Go is just that good. The evolution of Burr’s delivery is evident from Why Do I Do This? Which probably has better overall material, but Let It Go is the complete package of great writing, razor sharp delivery and a terrific overarching theme to the show. You simply can’t go wrong with the purchasing of this DVD. If you haven’t seen it. See it. Then see it again. And if you don’t plan to, I have only one question for you…
LOUIS CK – HILARIOUS
After blasting out two monstrous HBO specials, “Shameless” and “Chewed Up”, expectations were high for Louis CK’s concert film ‘Hilarious.’ After 20 years of doing basically the same act, CK reinvented himself by adopting the George Carlin technique of building up to an HBO special, then starting from scratch. The results have been nothing less than transcending. Talk to any comedian or comedy fan, about anything… and it’s very tough for Louis’ name or material to not come up.
The release is incredibly funny, and probably the only reason I wasn’t blown away by it is I had the good fortune to see him a few months before the taping, so I knew most of the material… which literally knocked me out my chair on multiple occasions at the live show. Another unfortunate, or perhaps fortunate, note to make about this DVD is that Louis dropped a good chunk of the best material prematurely on Conan O’Brien. This being the famed viral video “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy.”
The clip took off, and almost certainly rocketed the name Louis CK into more mainstream circles… but it did definitely take a little suspense out of the special. However, the signature title track and several other chunks of this release are some of his best material to date. Surely, as time goes on, viral videos aside, ‘Hilarious’ will stand the test of time and be considered some of CK’s best work… aka, some of the best stand up comedy that ever did exist. Interesting to note as well, that “Arts and Industry” produced both ‘Hilarious’ and Bill Burr’s “Let it Go” and both are masterfully produced, and unique. This is because A&I gives the stand-up final cut, and allows them to keep in interesting, imperfect moments; for example, in ‘Hilarious’ when the camera gets too close and Louis stops the show to talk to the camera guy and tell him to back off… or when Bill Burr finds a water bottle cap on stage and addresses it, firing it into the front row.
JIM JEFFERIES – ALCOHOLOCAUST
Alcoholocaust is a suberb stand up comedy DVD. Like the others on this list, and perhaps to a degree moreso than the other three, it shows a major evolution in Jim Jefferies as a writer, performer and persona. Aside from the much more presentable appearance, trading in the sloppy drunk leather jacket rock and roll for the euro styled facial hair, and button up shirt… at the core of this is show is a much different comedian. Make no mistake, this is still Jim Jefferies: Foul mouthed, crude, obscene, offensive, purposefully pushing buttons and loving every minute of it. But it’s a different package from the raucous, and arguably funnier HBO special “I Swear To God.” Now, I said it was funnier, more in your face and aggressive… but I think Alcoholocaust is better, on many levels. Calm and conversational is the delivery style of choice here, and the content speaks for itself. Casually, with the precision of a
seasoned vet, he dances from delightful topics like shooting muslims in the head, to what cunts lesbians are and on to some of the best religious comedy in years.
“The Bible should be one sheet of paper, and on that sheet of paper it should say: ‘Try Not To Be A Cunt.’”
Oh, and countless dick and pussy jokes, with plenty of good drug references for the diehard Jefferies fan. Overall, I found this to be a very impressive piece of work, one that puts Jefferies in amongst the rare new breed of comedian who can throw out all their old stuff, start again, and evolve… moving their own career forward, as well as the art form in general.
PATRICE O’NEAL – ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Long has the stand up comedy world known how funny Patrice O’Neal was. Unfortunately, unless you were at one of his shows, you’d have no real way to know. Such was the case with me, I had come to love Patrice’s on air persona from his many appearances on the Opie and Anthony show… but never really knew how funny he was on stage, other than that all of my favourite comics respected him.
Elephant in the Room changed all that… in a very big way. In his first full length release, Patrice unveiled a comedy style that probably only he is capable of at this level… a seamless, masterful transition between crowd interaction and prepared material. So seamless in fact, it’s difficult to actually tell which parts of the show are improvised, and which are skilfully prepared. Such is his mastery of the art of crowd work, and such is the level of his comedy IQ. Patrice is in control of the show from start to finish, and makes it look so easy. It isn’t. While a lot of the topics have been well covered (White People/Black People, Women and Men, Relationships) they haven’t been done with Patrice’s unique and innovative thought process. Much like Bill Burr, his alpha dog outlook is a breath of fresh air, and gives a voice to a generation of frustrated, castrated and pussified men.
However, I do think it would be really great to see O’Neal flex his intellect a little more, as he is, more than anyone on this list, capable of bringing Carlin/Hicks level philosophy to the stage. Anyone who has heard him break down complex social issues knows that there is another level to Patrice O’Neal that is not necessarily showcased in this special. Having said that, I laughed uncontrollably throughout the entire uncut version of this… and re-watched it several times in the next few days, each time finding new, hilarious moments. There is no question the man is a virtuoso, and I really hope he doesn’t actually quit comedy… and instead brings more of his political and social commentary to many more specials for years to come.
In short, this is a great time for stand-up comedy, and the more we embrace, support and spread the word about true artists of the craft like these four, the better the future of stand up comedy will be. More comedians aspiring to be on this level, to work hard and to evolve, rather than trying to get on Last Comic Standing… is better for us all. Comics and fans alike.