There's a little bit of Dorf in all of us.
There is nothing wrong, inherently, with being dumb. As a matter of fact, unless you are afflicted with that certain manner of mind mushiness that has you drooling in your Froot Loops and chasing bi-planes, you're able to recognize that there are certain gradients, levels if you will, of acceptable stupidity. At the top of the dipstick pyramid are the mildly unintelligent; people who can balance a checkbook and order a decent French roast coffee online, but occasionally fail to keep their pants zipped up in public. Most of your run of the mill idiocy falls into a middle category somewhere between frightfully dim to downright dense. For these foolish folks, life is one big waking wonderland, filled moment by moment with things they, up until that time, never even knew existed. Things like basic math, personal hygiene skills, and the misconstruing of the Constitution and/or Bible. Overall, most nimrods are harmless, meandering through their vacant lives just hoping to find a comfortable place to sit down and a partner willing to spread their substandard seed upon an inert society. But at the very bottom of dull wittedness, down around blimp widget on the cerebral food chain, are the incredibly daft. These morons are so obtuse they make Forrest Gump look like Stephen Hawking. Cretins to the core and basically unable to function within the real world without a diaper, or a thesaurus, this massive band of boobs saunters through life's movable feast wondering why there's no pickle relish on the dessert cart. And yet, like the mindless brain dead dunderheads that they are, they all follow one fearless (and clueless) leader. And that man's name is DORF! Now you too can take a peek into the rare world of irrational retardation as Navarre brings all the Dorf "classics" (?) to DVD. As a famous movie once said…Be afraid…be VERY afraid.
Facts of the Case
On the two DVDs discussed here, our hero, the supposedly singularly named Dorf (kind of like Cher, Wesley, or Botulism) has four completely different (and yet strangely similar in joke content) adventures. Each revolves around one of the many pastimes of the great unwashed, be it car racing, blernsball, legalized gambling or…living in ancient Greece?
Dorf: Da Bingo King—Always wanted to know about the super secret society of bingo lovers? No, well too bad sparky, because Dorf, that loveable half-pint of questionable ethnic origin is here to explain every last droning detail about the Catholic Church and Native Americans' favorite tax dodge. Dorf teaches a class of would be card daubers the fine art of finding B-23 and avoiding stretch pants related accidents. With the help of his mentally "gifted" assistant, Hank or Chuck or Plant (whatever his name is), Dorf explains the purpose of a runner, the exact way to celebrate a simple diagonal, and the superstitions surrounding this quasi-religious precursor to lotto…and poverty.
Dorf And The First Games Of Mt. Olympus—Or basically the only time that Eastern Europe failed to dominate the Olympic games (except that Dorf sounds suspiciously Slavic, at which point it's really the first time an athlete from the Iron Curtain swept the competition). Tiny titan Dinkus Dorf wants to do something to enliven his tired empire and prove that a person with incredibly squat legs can still compete with the naturally long of thigh. So he devises a series of contests, each involving a specific physical skill. From putting the shot to cussing the disc to vaulting the pole, our fearless four-footer tries them all. And he fails at each and every one (how clever).
Dorf Goes Auto Racing—It's the perfect amalgamation of sport and spokesman. Who better to celebrate the brain busting bedlam of NASCAR than that puny pile of patheticness, Dorf (or as he is known here, DUSSEL Dorf—ha ha)? As the king of Formula One racing (it helps that almost every race he won was the result of unforeseen or purposefully caused "accidents"), Dorf moves to America, is sponsored by a Southern dandy to race stock cars, and wrecks havoc amongst the hillbillies and their inbred "chillun." As good old boys chaw tabaccy and disrespect his "international" flavor, Dorf recklessly revolves around the concrete course making more pit stops than yellow jackets around Uncle Eb's overall flap.
Dorf On The Diamond—our pint-sized putz is baseball's number one super fan. Every home game he maneuvers his classic Volkswagen bug down to the ballgame, finds his mid-mob box seat, and enjoys imagining himself in the game. When he's not busy fantasizing about foul balls and a young effeminate boy, he tries to buy peanuts (through the use of elaborate managerial signs) and mustard his frankfurter (it's either famine or lava flow when it comes to the yellow condiment). Just like the ever-increasing salaries of star players, the hijinx just keep ensuing as our pseudo Serbian sports nut explores the finer aspects of Abner's double dare. Life is just one non-stop nine-inning nap when Dorf and his diminutive stature are involved.
There are a lot of reasons to praise the video tape revolution: the chance to see and own the classic films by artists the likes of Keaton and Kurosawa; the ability to cheaply and conveniently see the current crop of Hollywood hack without stepping into the staid sameness of your local multiplex. Naturally, the always popular possibility of viewing your favorite porn in the quiet and well-lubed comfort of your own bedroom. And what Beta booster or VHS vanguard isn't leaping for lizards over the ability to record, replay, and enjoy their own favorite television programs. Truly, the VCR was (and in some cases still is) a tasty bit of technology. It opened up a wide world of entertainment possibilities that would have to wait a couple of decades, and a thang called the Internet to completely solidify and globally dominate. But like every other time man tampered in God's rumpus room, along with the righteous came the rotten. For every bit of wonderstuff offered for the discriminating home video viewer, there was and still are another trillion pieces of magnetic tape mange that foul the four head and undermine the stereo surround. Things like the fetid Faces of Death, that mixes autopsy photos with staged scenes of people getting mauled by marmots; or what about Jane Fonda and her faux Pilates for prolls exercise tapes, guaranteed to melt off the money, if not the pounds. But the worst of all is the made for video vomit, the direct result of astonishing inanity meeting the professional quality portable camera head on. Thus an entire sub-genre of sputum was created. It is up from this ooze that Dorf rises like a hateful, if harmless, beast.
The whole Dorf phenomenon is interesting and a little mind-boggling. Tim Conway has always been a comedian with integrity. From his work in McHale's Navy to his scene-stealing stay as part of comedy's greatest sketch showcase, The Carol Burnett Show, Conway found an easy, unforced manner of merriment that still resonates some 25 years after it first filled the airwaves. Who could forget his deaf and dopey Mickey Hart, clueless colleague to Ed and bane of Eunice and Mother Harper's existence? Or how about the little old man, actions so sluggish and voice so slow it comes out in a kind of breathless wheeze? But perhaps his best overall moment was as a Nazi ventriloquist, trying to get an almost laughing Harvey Korman to confess via a Hitler hand puppet singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Anyone growing up in the late '60s and '70s timed their Saturday nights by the arrival of Carol and her clever, creative troupe. And Conway was the lynch pin, the unpredictable element always ready to toss the talent a curve to see what they, and the audience, would do with it. So how, years later, he came to make a series of videos revolving around the age old tired tactic of tying shoes to one's knees, Toulouse style, to feign shortness seems oddly out of place. Sure, he is using his Mr. Tudball voice in all its ersatz Eastern European-ness to full faux funny effect, but what possessed him, exactly to "get small" and take on subjects like golf, baseball, and the Olympics? Maybe if he had something fresh to offer or insightful to add to our wealth of knowledge on these subjects, maybe these presentations would seem less like a life sentence. But minus any purpose other than to amuse and enliven, the "Dorf on…" series is nothing more than a surefire cinematic sedative, a kind of sleeping pill of drabness.
Nothing, frankly, is quiet as sad or depressing as watching a once talented comedian wallowing around, years past their prime, attempting to milk laughs out of shtick that was barely clever the first time around. There are several guilty parties still mucking instead of yucking it up in 2003. Up until he figured out a way to redesign The Producers for Broadway, turning a classic comedy film into a musical theater phenomenon, Mel Brooks was known as the funniest man in movies who used to know how to make people laugh. But thanks to Dracula: Dead and Loving It and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Brooks was seen as a tired old writer who had drained joke juice out of his Jewish heritage one too many times. George Carlin, the once hippie, but now just dippy (and drippy) weatherman, has long since turned in his turned on personal observations for curse word laden rants about the lack of fiber in his Kellogg's All Bran. Even recent rabble-rousers like Drew Carey and Denis Leary seem less clever and more conceited once fame and time take their toll on their spiel. And it's the same here with Conway. Fond memories and treasured moments are eviscerated, en masse, the minute one sees Dorf do anything. From the moment this mini-miscreant me shows up and starts to sputter, you can actually gauge the times you thought Conway was clever slipping away like the last of the fireflies on a summer's evening. There is just something innately draining about watching a full size actor waddle on his knees for the sake of a supposed belly laugh. Sadly, the only thing Dorf induces is negative brain waves.
Probably the most atrocious thing about the Dorf videos (or as they will now
be referred to, DorfVDs) is that they lack even the smallest spark of humor.
Experiencing Dorf is a lot like watching comedy in its raw, half-baked and
unfunny form. You can see the outlines for decent ideas. You can sense where the
jokes would or could go and how the sequence may build into something truly
witty. All throughout the time you watch these experiments in mass comatosis,
you get the impression that there are potentially droll dissections to be made
about the subjects presented, only here they are in the "think about
it" stage. All writers know that the first words placed on the page should
never be the last. Re-writing and re-thinking are the keys to polish and
professionalism. With any of the DorfVDs, you feel that Conway simply opened up
his head, removed the premises and pantomimes out in their fetal form and filmed
them while they were still squirming and festering. DorfVDs are like the first
draft of an idea of a notion of a thought. You can see something potentially
funny about to happen. Anything resembling entertainment is several re-writes, a
script doctor, and an overall change in public taste away. Like a comedic
forensics pathologist, Dorf in all his many heinous forms, sweeps down and jabs
its rotting arms into the gaping wound it creates in your carcass, robbing the
body of its funny bone, its jugular jocularity, and its reason to live. And why?
Cause it's .
Take Dorf Da Bingo King for example. When Roseanne's TV show dealt with the potential madness and mania brought on by spending too many nights looking for G-34, there were carefully observed details combined into an overall condemnation of the entire over-exaggerated Bingo lifestyle. Not only was it funny, it was true. Conway through his cretin conduit Dorf only offers the card and bean game as a backdrop for tired, lame old-fashioned horsefeathers. Instead of skewering the target, he just pokes it a little and hopes that the sell through profit realized will help cover catering and cast costs, with a little money left over to join Don Rickles and his wife for the planned summer cruise to the great ruins of ancient cultures. And speaking of ancient cultures, is watching an aging comedian throwing various objects into the air in fast motion supposed to be funny? Is Benny Hill style speed cranking ever humorous? Maybe if it involved laser eye surgery or an overview of how a bill becomes law, then the use of 48 or 240 frames per second would strike a chord of joviality. But as it stands in the Dorf opuses, it's just dumb. As is the use of famous NASCAR faces to ridicule and rip our half pint hero a new exhaust pipe. Obviously trying to "act natural" while at the same time delivering their no laugh lines, these redneck racers are better mechanics than comedians. They seem bothered to even be speaking, let alone using the word "dorf" without referring to their cousins. Just like the train wreck that is the over reliance on fat jokes, weak slapstick, and painful puns, there is a streak of amateurishness that taints every moment of these drab, dull features.
Another terrible aspect of all the DorfVDs is the wasting (or in the case of one show, the employing) of talent for the sake of name. Chuck McCann, long past his days as a far out space nut, looks lost in a sea of rapidly aging time and can barely act without requiring major organ transplants. Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost, Batman Returns), that gifted, gritty character actor from numerous major motion pictures, literally sleepwalks through his role as Leonard in the Mt. Olympus story. So bored and bedraggled that he seems bent under the pressure of staying alert, his hulking frame is wasted in what amounts to a glorified literal walk-on. But at least he doesn't completely embarrass himself the way Louise DuArt (D.C. Follies) does in Da Bingo King. Frankly, there was and is only one truly entertaining impressionist and his name is…Frank Gorshin. He was an absolute creation, a man possessed with the dark spirit of the personas he was channeling. DuArt is like grade school talent show mimicry. She is all clichés and nervous tics. A perfect example of how dreadful she is and can be is highlighted when she takes on that quintessential character for the female copycat: Cher. Her tongue incessantly lolls across her lips as she flicks long stringy black hair from out of her eyes like a hairdresser with Tourette's. She is all "whoops" and "yeahs," hoping to convey what some reject determined was how Ms. Bono acted like for the first few years of her public life. For maybe about 87 seconds in 1983, someone thought this "Rochelle" Little was a female force to challenge the likes of Travalena, Byner, and Frye. But her presence in the Dorf dyspepsia further galvanizes the painful truth about these sordid sketches. They are just not funny.
However, in order to be perfectly fair to Mr. Conway and his cash cow, the contents of both DorfVDs were sent off for experimentation to one of the finest research labs in North America. After much scientific analysis at the Geechie Guy Center for Side Splitting in Tuscon, Arizona, it is with a stellar 97.678912% certainty that there are only two, and it bears repeating, two amusing moments in the entire four episodes discussed here. The first occurs in Dorf on the Diamond. During an early montage on the life of the supposed superfan of America's used to be favorite pastime, we get a rare few moments of mirth as we witness the pathetically ludicrous Baby Dorf. Unlike Jerry Lewis, France's answer to a UN veto, Conway chooses not to play the infant terrible himself (anyone whose seen Le Genius decked out in a diaper and pacifier understands the anguish of those forced to watch an aged monkey man play pabulum). Instead, we get a goofy makeup effect on a toddler that, for want of a better description, looks freakishly funny. Baby Dorf is just plain hilarious, complete with Fuhrer moustache and bad toupee. His appearance is short, sweet, and silly. The second moment is also a bit of stunt casting, the use of another performer to remove the shame and staleness from Dorf and hopefully inject some much needed vim into this vigorless void. And in Dorf Goes Auto Racing, that delight diversion is Eddie Deezen. That's right, the Eddie Deezen, The Big Deez, the Deezmeister, the denizen of Deeziness. The star of such films as 1941, Zapped, Grease, and long remembered for his role as Sphincter in 1987's A Polish Vampire in Burbank, Ed-izzle Dee-izzle lights up the screen with his anus on amphetamines routine. Though he is given very little to work with in Auto Racing, our man Edward works that smidgen into a full-blown splash, electrifying the screen with his raw, pulsating comic sexual magnetism. If there is a reason to watch any other these sorry excuses for entertainment, it's to watch the E.D. teach those surrounding him a thing or two about timing and talent.
And that's why Dorf in all his many facets fails. He, or more specifically, Conway, has lost his timing. Comedy is all about the how and when of set up and delivery. It's about offering one possible outcome and then surprising the audience with a completely different one. But when alien life forms hundred of light years away can see the jokes coming hours before they are delivered, there is nothing worth chuckling over. Unless you are so infirmed that the sight of a quail with diarrhea making bacon in the microwave would provide a few precious moments of relief from the searing, unending pain and discomfort you are in, or you're so old/young you have difficulty controlling your bladder/bladder, you will find Conway's forewarning funny business grating. Certain rules should apply to any attempt at direct to home video comedy. (1) They should never employ camera tricks like fast motion or its inert brother, slow. (2) Nothing is funnier in reverse when it was appalling in forward. (3) Jokes about Elvis being stupid are just redundant. (4) Obvious toupees flying off the heads of even more obviously bald men are just sad. (5) All guest stars should be able to, at the very least, read cue cards convincingly, and (6) Never name a female character Boom Boom unless she's got the lungs of Kitten Natavidad. The collection of Dorf films offered here in these DorfVDs violates each and every one of these codes, plus hundreds more too excruciating to explain. When Dante wrote his Divine Comedy, he could never envision a layer of Hell more intolerable or infinite than the flatline fiascos offered here in the name of humor.
Individually, the transfers presented of these evil episodes are a mixed bag. The best looking is, understandably, the most recent outing (BINGO!). The worst is the oldest (that would be Mt. Olympus, stemming from 1988). Overall, they each give a decent, full screen picture with inconsistent clarity and minimal defects. For what are basically homemade movies, the images are acceptable. Sadly, on the sonic side, Dorf is all shrill treble and Casio style electronic keyboard doodling. The soundtracks all recall Kraftwerk day at Candyland and there are no Dolby Digital effects to try and drown out the pops and buzzes. Each disc contains two episodes, plus a short ten-minute plus featurette called "Behind the Scenes with DORF." It's hard to get a handle on this bonus. It casts Conway as Dorf discussing the making of the Dorf films. It then shows Conway obviously acting like Dorf (even occasionally reverting to his own voice) as various scenes and shots are made. So what is this supposed to mean? That Conway is a mental case? That he doesn't know where Dorf starts and he ends, or visa versa? Why keep up the persona when you plan on showing how it is done to begin with? Like the outtakes offered over the credits to Da Bingo King, if anyone was buying Dorf as a character, the asides and fourth wall breaking flubs destroy the deception (and if anyone does believe Dorf is real, there are many qualified professionals ready to cradle your cap and then properly shrink it for you). In the end, we really don't learn much about the making of these titles, or why they are so popular. Then again, it would probably take a treatise the size of the Warren Commission to decipher why over two million of these fetid Dorf videos have been sold.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In our current gross out, sacrilegious stunt, personal embarrassment oriented comedy climate, it's refreshing to see something and someone trying to work in a family friendly, accessible to all ages format. Sure, Tim Conway and his material are as dated as Jan Murray's chicken jokes, but at least they're inoffensive and honest. Conway doesn't want to sell some social agenda or wryly observe the odder aspects of life that the majority of us overlook each day. He wants to trade on a familiar character and archetype for the sake of a snicker and a sigh of blessed relief. So what if the name Dorf is just a illiterate reworking of the slang "dork," or that this Lilliputian laugh machine has cankles the size of canned hams, the truth is that taken as a minor amusement in a pantheon overloaded with foul mouthed crap, Dorf on anything is silly, stupid entertainment. True, as the years have passed, the Dorf titles have taken a decidedly more mundane turn, less physical comedy oriented and more story and vignette driven. And many of the jokes fall flatter than the chest of the ill-named Boom Boom. But again, this is kinder, gentler comedy we're discussing here, the kind of humor your grandmother would find racy but acceptable and your baby brother would spit his strained peas over. If you want hardcore blue humor, then leave this little man and his misadventures on the store shelf. But if you want to be pleasantly lulled into a state of happy frivolousness, check out Dorf and his comedy collection. It may not be the greatest sketch comedy, but it is the most inoffensive.
Picking on Dorf and his DVD collection is a lot like making fun of that kid in third grade who sat two seats away from you and constantly picked his nose. Whenever the teacher would call on him (or her), the savant would bolt upright in their chair, finger in full nostril insert mode and let out a long, lethargic "huh" like he was getting ham radio signals from a far off distant planet. Digit still completely encased in proboscis, the class cretin would blurt out an inappropriate answer or pee his pants, or both, and in your excited state of juvenilia, you'd laugh yourself senseless. As the poor pathetic dope struggled with the addled brain God gave him, as he humiliated himself in front of the whole world with his nonsensical stupidity, you brayed like a mule and swore to retell the story to friends and family a thousand times over. You just knew you'd never tire of the day when David (or Denise) proved to the entire student body that they were the biggest moron in Barker Elementary School. Funny how times and temperament changes everything. Nowadays, our booger hunter would be crammed into a Special Ed class full of Ritalin entranced retreads all hoping to learn enough of the alphabet for the State to successfully pass them on to the next grade. And you, your laughter would be viewed as a sign of insensitivity, and it's a few dozen filmstrips for you about "respecting the specialness" of others. But don't worry, even if giggling at the playground retard no longer offers the necessary stupidity thrills, you can simply insert a DVD into your player and recreate that childhood moment. You too can relish dumbness in all its broad, basic banality. And there's no need to worry about retribution. You're guaranteed not to be laughing at this listless load named Dorf
Dorf is hereby found guilty of crimes against humanity and is sentenced to simply go away and never show his stumpy legs in this courtroom, or country, ever again. The DorfVDs represented here are also found guilty of wasting valuable digital space and are sentenced to be melted down and reused for anything other than lame made for video comedy—like America's Greatest Televised Suicides: The Complete First Season. Court dismissed.
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Scales of Justice, Dorf Da Bingo King / Dorf And The First Games Of Mt. Olympus
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Scales of Justice, Dorf Goes Auto Racing / Dorf On The Diamond
Perp Profile, Dorf Goes Auto Racing / Dorf On The Diamond
Distinguishing Marks, Dorf Goes Auto Racing / Dorf On The Diamond
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