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"I love digressing from my own stories. It's fantastic. It adds an energy that really is enjoyable for everybody. 'I hope he digresses for a good 20 minutes and then forgets where he's at because he's got ADD, because that would add a lot to the story.'"—Jeff Garlin
If you're familiar with Jeff Garlin, it's probably from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld co-creator and head writer Larry David's semi-improvised, pseudo-autobiographical situation comedy, which has run for seven seasons (so far) on HBO. As David's portly, semi-competent manager Jeff Greene, who suffers constant verbal abuse at the hands of his incredibly profane wife (Susie Essman, Bolt), Garlin is one of the funniest members of one of the funniest casts on television. Prior to watching Young and Handsome: A Night with Jeff Garlin, I'd never seen the actor-comedian do stand-up, but I suspected from the outset that I wouldn't be disappointed. In addition to his great work on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Garlin is almost single-handedly responsible for one of the most hilarious episodes of Jon Favreau's (Iron Man) roundtable talk show, Dinner for Five. Garlin had Favreau and his fellow guests guffawing at an elaborate story of leaving an angry diatribe on a date's answering machine only to end up at a party at her apartment on the night she played back her messages. His lively delivery, keen eye for the absurd, and ruthlessly self-deprecating humor make Jeff Garlin a very, very funny man.
Much like his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm and his appearance on Dinner for Five, Garlin's stand-up act is loose and conversational. He essentially tells a series of humorous true stories in which he is the butt of his jokes. His weight and general blockheadedness are the source of most of the laughs. Highlights of the show include an incident in which he accidentally brushed his teeth with caulk, and then was hung up on by the poison control operator because, when spoken with a Midwestern accent (Garlin is originally from Chicago), "caulk" and "cock" are homophones; his commercial airliner conversation with an elderly black man who informed him of the sexual delights available late night at Waffle House; and, in perhaps the funniest segment of the show, the time he and former Chicago lead singer Peter Cetera wound up babysitting Kid Rock at a Cubs game where Rock was scheduled to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. To say that Garlin's style is loose is an understatement. His stories are littered with tangents so long and elaborate that he sometimes has to ask the audience what he was originally talking about. Viewers wanting the standard setup/punch line format of textbook stand-up comedy will grow frustrated with Garlin in short order. Those who recognize that the tangents are an essential (and hilarious) part of the comedian's rhythm will find Young and Handsome a unique and truly funny show.
Young and Handsome: A Night with Jeff Garlin captures the comedian's performance at Chicago's Second City Theater on June 9, 2008. Directed by Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show with Bob and David), the program is almost a companion piece to Dana Gould: Let Me Put My Thoughts in You, also shot by Odenkirk at Second City in June of 2008 (and also released on DVD by Shout! Factory). As with Gould's show, Odenkirk shows great sensitivity in his presentation of Garlin's act. The program opens with static shots of Garlin on Chicago's streets, set to a bopping jazz score. There's nothing zany about the opening sequence. Instead, Odenkirk jumps straight into the act, shooting Garlin's performance with a maximum of clarity and minimum of ostentation. Multiple static high definition digital video cameras provide necessary coverage but ensure that the production itself is practically invisible, never upstaging the actual performance. The transfer to DVD is 1.78:1, enhanced for widescreen displays. The image is crisp, detailed, and colorful. The high definition source delivers satisfying deep focus clarity. Digital artifacts are practically non-existent. Audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo mixes. Both are crystal clear. Given the fact that the audio consists of one man talking into a microphone and a small club crowd laughing, the source isn't demanding. Still, Odenkirk and his crew did a fine job of producing a pitch-perfect audio recording of the gig. You'll feel like you're there.
In addition to the main program, the disc contains a few extras. "Bob Odenkirk Interviews Jeff Garlin" (14:34) is both funny and informative as the duo talks about Garlin's comedy work over the years as well as the comics that most influenced him. There are also two brief deleted scenes from the show. In "Hot Dog," Garlin muses about his visit to a Vienna hot dog factory. In "He's Always Right" he talks about the oddball conversations he has with Larry David and how in matters of linguistic analysis David is always right.
Young and Handsome: A Night with Jeff Garlin is great stand-up by a seasoned professional known more for his work on television than in clubs. It's not to be missed.
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