MPI // 1991 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Evans (Retired) // July 12th, 2006
Hear lots of dirty words that can now be said on television (if it's HBO, where this performance by celebrated comedian George Carlin was originally broadcast 15 years ago).
The grand old man of outraged, misanthropic comedy ridicules everyone from the politicians behind the Persian Gulf War (Part I) to tree-hugging Save the Earth types. The results are sporadically funny and often strident, but occasionally wise. For this show Carlin played the Paramount Theater at Madison Square Garden for a crowd of 6,500.
Carlin's scathing brand of social commentary found plump, rotted targets in President George Herbert Walker Bush and his face-off against former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Desert Storm conflict. Like a journalist practicing the classic inverted-pyramid form of storytelling, Carlin begins his New York gig by focusing on war-mongering government leaders, then broadens his comic attack to include hypocrites, neurotics, the pompous, the presumptuous, and assholes of every stripe. The comedian likens the Gulf War to a cock fight between insecure, flaccid men with penis envy who used rockets and bombs to compensate for their shortcomings. Ultimately, he concludes they were just dicking around with other men's lives. In terms of the Bush presidencies, the inference can easily be made that a certain Texas acorn did not fall far from the old tree. This is probably the main reason for releasing Carlin's 1991 gig on DVD at this time: same war + different Bush = sales opportunity for 15-year-old comedy performance.
Bureaucratic stupidity and suburbanite arrogance preoccupy Carlin's monologues on "Airline Announcements" and "Not in my Backyard."
"Golf Courses for the Homeless" is a biting treatise on bridging the chasm between the haves and the have nots (attacking social inequity has long been a Carlin cause). "The Water Sucks" is a sublime commentary on clueless complainers. Carlin closes out his set with "The Planet is Fine," a diatribe not so much on Armageddon -- the annihilation of all living things -- but the possibility of mere human extinction. The comedian wonders if this is necessarily a bad thing.
Carlin's observations on war and the Middle East still come off as fresh and relevant 15 years later, for what should be obvious reasons. Some of his other material is merely shrill, the sort of complaining we might hear from geriatrics standing in line at an all-you-can-eat buffet as they harp on the problems of this troublesome world. Putting it gently, Carlin in his golden years has one string left on the guitar and he plucks it relentlessly. The man offers valid observations on human folly, but he hammers home the point again and again and again; long after the delivery comes through loud and clear.
The fullscreen video is clean and artifact-free, allowing the viewer to focus on Carlin's performance. A Dolby stereo track is nice, but provides little in the way of sonic benefits for a strictly vocal, localized source. There are no extras.
The DVD keepcase cites an alleged running time of 83 minutes, but the review disc clocks in at less than an hour.
Fans will want the disc. Those who can get by with one set of Carlin material in their stand-up comedy collection can find superior material elsewhere on DVD.
* "Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf"
* "Little Things We Share"
* "Airline Announcements"
* "Not in My Backyard"
* "Golf Courses for the Homeless"
* "The Water Sucks"
* "The Planet is Fine (the People are Screwed)"
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated