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Case Number 14690: Small Claims Court

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Lewis Black's Root of All Evil

Comedy Central // 2008 // 176 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 8th, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas thinks ginger is the root of all evil.

The Charge

Order! Order! Shut up! Court is now in session!

The Case

Lewis Black's Root of All Evil is a Comedy Central program that features a courtroom-style format slightly similar to the one employed here at DVD Verdict. Black, the famously cranky comedian, serves as moderator and judge. Each week, he selects two people, places, or things that he thinks could potentially be "Root of All Evil" (an example: Oprah vs. The Catholic Church). Each episode, two comedians serve as "lawyers" who try and convince Black and the audience that their chosen item is…yes, Root of All Evil. Comedians serving as lawyers include Andrew Daly, Greg Geraldo, Patton Oswalt, Andy Kindler, Kathleen Madigan, and Paul F. Tompkins.

Eight episodes are included here:

• Oprah vs. The Catholic Church
• Paris Hilton vs. Dick Cheney
• Weed vs. Beer
• YouTube vs. Porn
• Las Vegas vs. The Human Body
• American Idol vs. High School
• Donald Trump vs. Viagra
• Kim Jong-Il vs. Tila Tequila

I am typically not a big fan of noisy, belligerent stand-up comedians. So why do I like Lewis Black as much as I do? He's as noisy and belligerent as anyone, but the quality of his material tends to be quite strong and effective. Black's delightful rants against everything he hates in society are a whole lot of fun, and I've enjoyed both his comedy specials and his many appearances on The Daily Show. However, he seems curiously neutered in Lewis Black's Root of All Evil, a potentially entertaining show that really struggles due to a suffocating format.

There are way too many gimmicks involved in the setup here. First, Black calls the court to order, tosses off a one-liner, and screams. While he is yelling, the camera swoops into his mouth and into an animated main title montage. After this, Black does a two-minute comedy bit, mocking both of the topics being discussed. Then it's time for "Opening Statements," where the two lawyers rant against their selected target. Next, they are asked to "State Your Case," which is kind of the same thing, with video sketches sometimes included. Then we get the "Inquisition," in which Black tosses the lawyers easy set-ups for punch lines and the comics respond with canned punch lines: What would Oprah be called if she became the pope? Answer: The Poprah. Ha. Then we get "The Ripple of Evil," in which the comedians offer a theory about where the world will go if the subject in question is allowed to continue unchecked. Next we have "Closing Statements," and Black's "Final Verdict." The whole show feels much too cornball, and both Black and the comics seem constrained by the format.

There are some laughs here and there, but surprisingly few of them come from Black. In fact, the show's greatest attribute is perhaps comedian Patton Oswalt, who is reliably funny and smart every time he appears. Some of the video interviews are also quite entertaining, though these are few and far between. I also enjoyed Andrew Daly & Andy Kindler. Both have a lot of fun lines: "I would argue that Parade Magazine is one of this country's finer publications, ranking right alongside Highlights." Just a side note: this an "unrated" version of the show, which essentially means a few f-bombs peppered in here and there.

The interlaced transfer is quite crummy, looking absolutely no better than it would if you were watching it on television. Still, this is mostly a talking heads show, so it doesn't matter all that much. The 2.0 Stereo sound mix is fine, though occasionally the audience laughter gets a bit loud. Also, I hate the theme music. A variety of little goodies are included as supplements. We get post-show interviews for all eight episodes, running a few minutes each. Black talks about how well the case went, and the comedians talk about their happiness or disappointment. These are actually pretty fun. "Your Day in Court" has Black poking fun at the legal system for three minutes. "Meet Judge Black" is a lame intro to our host, and the same applies to "Meet the Lawyers." "Politibits" is a one-minute piece of advice from Black to politicians. That wraps it up. This show isn't Root of All Evil, but it could have been a lot funnier considering the talent involved.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Comedy Central
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 176 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Performance
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Politibits
• "Meet Judge Black"
• "Meet the Lawyers"
• Post-Ruling Interviews
• "Your Day in Court"


• IMDb

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