R2 Entertainment // 2007 // 123 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // August 29th, 2007
Punchlines. Zingers. Jokes. Insults.
This two-disc collection presents a mixed bag of routines from 20 stand-up comedians who appeared on The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson (The Johnny Carson Show) was the "King of Late Night." It covers a wide time period (1974-1991), a variety of acts (observational, physical, props, standard jokes, and random thoughts), and a broad range of personalities (from the subdued to the larger-than-life). Each act is about five minutes long.
* Roseanne Barr (August 23, 1985): Barr (Roseanne: The Complete First Season) needs no introduction. Her set includes jokes about her weight, motherhood, and married life. I am not a fan of Roseanne and this performance did nothing to change that opinion.
* Rich Shydner (August 30, 1984): The name didn't ring a bell, but the face
did: Shydner appears as Luke Ventura, a co-worker of Al Bundy, in the first
season of Married With Children. His material includes comments about
shark attacks, death, and the afterlife. It's a respectable showing.
* Steven Wright (August 6, 1982): Wright (Steven Wright: When The Leaves
Blow Away) makes his first appearance on national television with this
performance. He uses his trademark monotone to discuss various bizarre matters.
He acquits himself well, but appears nervous.
* Brett Butler (May 14, 1987): Butler (Grace Under Fire) delivers a
set that includes remarks about being a Southerner in New York and Los Angeles.
This didn't leave much of an impression on me.
* Bill Kirchenbauer (August 28, 1978): Another unfamiliar name, but you'll
recognize Kirchenbauer as Coach Lubbock on Growing Pains and Just The
Ten Of Us. He delivers an intense physical routine, the only one in the
collection, consisting of impressions of a garbage truck, chewing gum, and a
unique ventriloquist act involving a dummy with no body.
* Jerry Seinfeld (May 6, 1981): Seinfeld has come a long way since this
appearance. He gives his standard observational material, featuring customs,
traffic signs, and the world's heaviest man. If you like Seinfeld, you'll
probably like this.
* Louie Anderson (November 20, 1984): In his first appearance on national
television, Anderson (Coming To America) jokes about his weight, the
Olympics, and his family. He tells too many fat jokes for my liking.
* Ronnie Shakes (February 10, 1984): Shakes riffs on his insecurities,
psychiatrist, parents, and his mother's cooking. It's a decent performance.
* Kelly Monteith (November 21, 1974): I had never heard of Monteith before
seeing him here. He still performs stand-up and, at one point, had his own
self-titled show, Kelly Monteith, that ran for six seasons on the BBC.
Here Monteith talks about life on the road, how people in various professions
identify customers, being a germophobe, and the use (and misuse) of the
expression "thank you." It's a polished and amusing performance.
* Garry Shandling (March 18, 1981): This is Shandling's (The Larry
Sanders Show) first appearance on national television. He riffs on babies,
his dogs, his father, and memories of Disneyland. A solid performance, but
Shandling seems uneasy, although he always seems to look that way.
* Drew Carey (November 8, 1991): This is the one performance that I actually saw on television when I was fourteen. Carey (The Drew Carey Show) jokes about his appearance, high school reunions, drive-through liquor stores, the weather in Ohio, and speeding in the rain. It was really funny when I first watched it and I stand by that view today.
* Sean Morey (June 8, 1981): Morey riffs on working at a supermarket,
fruitcake, his father's penchant for scraping burnt toast, and adoption.
* George Carlin (November 26, 1986): Carlin (George Carlin: Life Is Worth
Losing) does his usual shtick, commenting about Thanksgiving, hit-and-run
accidents, and other randomness. It's a weak set. Carlin says on a couple of
occasions that some of the material isn't meant to be funny. He's right.
* David Brenner (October 13, 1981): Brenner (The Aristocrats)
actually holds the record for most appearances as a guest on the The Tonight
Show; he also guest-hosted a few times. His set focuses on the troubles and
weirdness of living in Los Angeles. It's pretty good.
* Gallagher (February 17, 1982): Gallagher (Gallagher: Melon Crazy)
delivering a routine without watermelons? That's what happens here. Instead,
wearing a three-piece suit, he goes the observational route. I'm not sure it
works, but that could be a result of my watermelon bias.
* Daryl Sivad (February 24, 1988): Sivad jokes about Webster, his
family, television game shows, and Otis Redding.
* Rita Rudner (February 24, 1988): Rudner (Dr. Katz, Professional
Therapist) discusses her family and relationships. It didn't do much for
* Maureen Murphy (October 15, 1980): The Australian comedienne riffs on
being Australian, marriage, dating in Los Angeles, and politics. Most of the
jokes are at the expense of men.
* Rich Hall (April 21, 1981): You'll recognize Hall if you watch Late
Night With Conan O'Brien; he's done stand-up there a number of times. He
uses a small set of props and makes extensive use of a piece of plexiglass to
tell a string of motorist jokes involving windshields and windows. His routine
is too repetitive for my tastes.
* Rodney Dangerfield (February 3, 1981): Dangerfield (Rodney Dangerfield:
No Respect: The Ultimate Collection) was a frequent guest on The Tonight
Show. He gives a pretty well-honed "No Respect" routine. He then
goes on to sit with Carson for a continuation of the set. It's a good
performance, perhaps the best in the collection, and a fitting close to the
None of the routines in the collection will blow you away. This is not a criticism because almost all of the performances here come very early in the careers of these comedians when they were still developing their acts. The real value of this collection is the history it presents in terms of the evolution of the material of some of these comics. Identifying some of the familiar faces with unfamiliar names is also an interesting aspect of the collection. Further, the collection illustrates how the The Tonight Show was the show that all comics aspired to appear on, representing the career peak for some and a springboard to greater (or lesser) fame for others, and it shows how long it took for some of these performers to make it "big."
Also, the 1970s and 1980s suits worn by the comedians are a sight to behold. In some cases, these performances clearly were made long before they could afford the slick fashions afford by celebrity status.
I should note that there is very little of Carson on the DVD. He is typically only seen introducing the comedians.
The video and audio are fine. It's not perfect, but there's not much to complain about. After all, for the most part, the collection is made-up of stationary shots of the performers standing in front of a curtain. The sound is fine; everything can be heard.
There are no extras.
One complaint I have is that some acts appear to have been shortened. For example, in the case of Morey, he introduces himself and then the picture rotates to from left to right, going to a later part of the act. It doesn't look cutting for a commercial break. There are similar cuts during Carey's and Hall's sets.
Overall, this is a decent, if unspectacular, collection of stand-up routines that is worth a look by fans of stand-up comedy. However, it will probably have greater appeal for those who are old enough to have grown-up watching Carson. Contemporary audiences will probably find the material to lack the "edginess" (and profanity) of today's current crop of stand-up comedians, although there is still the appeal of seeing what some of today's comedic stars looked like many years ago. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2007 Roy Hrab; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: R2 Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site