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Case Number 05163: Small Claims Court

Buy Best Of The Improv at Amazon

Best Of The Improv

Koch Vision // 1982 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Elizabeth Skipper (Retired) // September 10th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Elizabeth Skipper will be here all week. Try the veal.

The Charge

"All I can say is get ready to laugh and laugh and laugh…"

The Case

I'm ready! I'm waiting! Where are the laughs?

They say comedy is perishable, which would explain why I'm still waiting to laugh at Best of the Improv, a compilation of six "best-of" clip shows from A&E's An Evening at the Improv, which aired from 1982 through 1996. Because as far as I can tell, the comedy routines included in this six-disc set are all from the '80s…and all long past their expiration dates.

The comedians included on Best of the Improv are:

• Disc One
Hosted by: Brad Garrett
Featuring: Jim Aleck, David Spade, John Byner, Diane Ford, A.J. Jamal, Rich Shydner, Greg Travis, Steve Harvey, Janeane Garafalo

• Disc Two
Hosted by: Bill Maher
Featuring: Brian Hailey, Rick Rockwell, Hugh Fink, Paula Poundstone, Martin Lawrence, Anthony Griffin, Denis Leary, Jeff Marder

• Disc Three
Hosted by: Rita Rudner
Featuring: Rich Hall, Margaret Cho, Jack Gallagher, Carol Siskind, Chas Elstner, Lizz Winstead, Stephanie Miller, Bobby Collins

• Disc Four
Hosted by: Rick Overton
Featuring: Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Charles Fleischer, Norm McDonald, Richard Jeni, Paula Poundstone, Dennis Wolfberg, Ray Romano

• Disc Five
Hosted by: Richard Belzer
Featuring: Max Alexander, Will Durst, Murray Langston, Mike McDonald, Ellen DeGeneres, D.L. Hughley, Dennis Blair, Larry Miller

• Disc Six
Hosted by: Carrie Snow
Featuring: Franklin Ajaye, Rosie O'Donnell, Chris Rock, Jack Coen, Stephanie Hodge, Jeff Foxworthy, John Mulrooney, Scot LaRose, Judy Tenuta, Drew Carey

I know what you're thinking: With such a star-studded line-up, what could possibly go wrong? That's exactly what I thought when I requested this set. I love stand-up comedy, and I love so many of these comedians, so why didn't I love Best of the Improv? Frankly, I can't give you a definitive answer. Perhaps it really is that these routines have outlasted their shelf life, that all comedy is perishable, even when it's not timely or topical. Perhaps it's that these comedians, while giants in their field now, were mere amateurs when they appeared on Improv and just weren't that good yet. Perhaps I just don't have a sense of humor.

Whatever the reason, I laughed only a few times during 360 minutes of stand-up comedy. Sure, a few comics made me chuckle—Paula Poundstone elicited a giggle or two; Ellen DeGeneres is always good for a guffaw; and Chris Rock was just beginning to come into his own—but three out of 57 just doesn't cut it.

Though not as painful as watching the menu graphics, unfortunately. Just because you're featuring comedy routines from the '80s doesn't mean you must borrow your technology from the decade as well. I could have created better menus with my Etch-a-Sketch. Thankfully, the transfers aren't quite as bad as the menus. That, of course, doesn't mean they're good either—just adequate. The full-frame video and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio are just good enough that they don't distract from the comedy…sadly.

Finally, the only extras on this set are one repeated preview for another comedy compilation, Funny Ladies, and text bios of the more well-known comedians.

With scant extras, lousy comedy, and nightmarish menus, I have no qualms about telling you to avoid this set like you would talent night at your local coffee shop. You might enjoy the routines more than I, but you'd be better off choosing your favorite comedians and investing in a few full-length specials.

Case adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 35

Perp Profile

Studio: Koch Vision
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Performance
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer for Funny Ladies
• Text Talent Bios of Selected Comedians


• IMDb

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