Leader of the Masses. Savior of Humanity.
David Alan Grier has always been something of a fringe player, always hanging around the edges of the American comedy scene but never really becoming a full-blown star on the same level as, say, Eddie Murphy or Will Ferrell. This Shakespearian-trained actor has had supporting roles on sitcoms (most recently ABC's Life With Bonnie) and in movies like Jumanji, but he's always been more of a familiar face than a ticket-seller. You wouldn't really rush out to the theater to see him work, but just knowing that he was working was a comforting feeling. Maybe it's better this way.
Regardless of his celebrity status, Grier has managed to attract a loyal following, and it's for them that The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto was made. This Comedy Central production, a 40-minute stand-up routine filmed in New York City that aired in April 2003, features the comedian airing his feelings on a wide range of subjects, from running the Los Angeles Marathon to family life in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan to the more familiar topics of love, sex, and marriage. Grier performs the material with plenty of energy, and his jokes hit the mark more often than not, often eliciting chuckles and even the occasional belly laugh. His insights into love and marriage are particularly clever, as he explores the evolution of relationships from the inexhaustible jubilance of puppy love to the deadening pain of break-ups, familiar feelings usually conveyed with Grier's signature wit in evidence. His material isn't always of the highest caliber and some of the jokes don't feel particularly well thought out, but the laugh-to-dud ratio is fairly high for this sort of routine, and Grier is enigmatic enough to rise above the dead spots.
Comedy Central's presentation of The Book of David is more or less what you'd expect for a DVD release of a televised stand-up routine. The full-frame video is acceptable, with accurate color balance and no digital artifacting apparent. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 and sounds just fine, with no subtitles or alternate language tracks included.
A few supplements round out the disc, the most significant being three pieces of unaired material from the routine including bits on basketball, New York as a melting pot, and the war on terror. None of these is very funny, and it's easy to see why they were cut from the televised performance. Also included are an appearance by Grier on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that is amusing enough, but curiously doesn't have anything to do with the routine itself (he's there to plug Return to Me). There are a couple of promos for The Book of David and, finally, three "Comedy Central Quickies," which are essentially just snippets from other Comedy Central shows.
Fans of David Alan Grier will no doubt be pleased by the material offered up in The Book of David: The Cult Figure's Manifesto, as Grier is an engaging performer who puts on a solid stand-up routine. At a list price of $14.99, I can't see anyone wanting to purchase this, as it's really only good for one viewing, but it's a decent enough rental for stand-up comedy fans. Case dismissed.
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