Judge Clark Douglas modeled much of his life after Stuart the Baby.
Our reviews of Michael McDonald: A Tribute to Motown / Live (Blu-ray) (published December 7th, 2011), Michael McDonald: This Christmas (Blu-ray) (published October 6th, 2010), and Michael McDonald: Live in Concert (published January 26th, 2005) are also available.
Improve your appearance—buy this DVD.
I never actually made a point of tuning in to MadTV, but for a long while it was one of those things I would just accept as tolerable viewing when my channel-surfing efforts failed to land upon anything genuinely exciting. While their sketches were rarely inspired, some of the cast members had strong comic instincts and I'd occasionally get a chuckle or two out of it. One of the show's most recognizable faces was Michael McDonald (most noted for playing Stuart the Baby), who was a regular cast member for over a decade and appeared in more episodes than any other actor. Outside of that program, McDonald has been given a broad array of minor supporting roles in numerous films and television shows, rarely getting anything particularly noteworthy but maintaining very steady work. Attempting to broaden his horizons a bit, McDonald is now trying his hand at stand-up comedy, offering Michael McDonald: Model. Citizen. as his debut performance.
As the hour-long special kicks off, it appears as if McDonald isn't really cut out for this sort of thing. He devotes the first ten minutes or so to alarmingly standard-issue stuff, throwing predictably snarky comments in the direction of easy pop culture targets like Jon & Kate Plus 8, Bruce Jenner (boy, he's had a lot of plastic surgery, huh?), The Octomom, and so on. For a while, it feels like we're in for "Michael McDonald riffs on last year's pop culture headlines," which just isn't very entertaining because McDonald isn't particularly good at it. He seems visibly uncomfortable with his routine about the Octomom's anatomy, which is understandable considering how thin the jokes are.
However, this opening section thankfully proves to be an ill-advised false start. Things start to improve considerably once McDonald starts to get personal, sharing stories from his childhood and reflecting on the way his mother's morbid sense of humor helped form his own comic instincts (his mother apparently thought it would be funny to tell a 7-year-old Michael that she had cancer). McDonald regales us with tales of the way his no-holds-barred joke-telling sessions with his mom would sometimes get them into trouble during social functions, and turns in some terrifically cringe-worthy tales of ill-advised jokes told at precisely the wrong moments.
From there, McDonald explores his life as a celebrity, spends some time discussing his years on MadTV (even gracing the audience with a brief Stuart impersonation), his relationship with Kathy Griffin and an assortment of peculiar situations generated by his modest level of fame ("I'm just famous enough to get into trouble now and then," he chuckles). The most striking thing about McDonald's stand-up comedy is how fundamentally sweet it is. Sure, the material turns R-rated at times and there are a few jokes that some may feel cross a line or two, but he comes across as such a pleasant, good-natured guy (he seems to hold his mother in particularly high regard; his warmth is obvious when he talks about her). Though the DVD case boasts a quote from Kathy Griffin declaring, "He's as funny as he is wrong, and he's all kinds of wrong," I have to report that Michael McDonald: Model. Citizen. is one of the more pleasant, good-natured stand-up specials I've come across recently.
The DVD transfer is solid, though the presentation is nothing to write home about. It's a standard-issue stage set-up without any fancy lighting or camera angles; occasional audience shots are peppered in throughout but there's nothing out of the ordinary. Detail is solid and blacks are deep. The audio is sturdy as well, with McDonald's easy-going presentation coming through with clarity. The only worthwhile extra is an 11-minute Q&A session that takes place immediately after the special; some good questions and amusing answers are on display. Otherwise, you just get a handful of additional footage so brief that it's hardly worth clicking through them (McDonald doing a soundcheck, fans raving about how much they love him, etc.).
While it's by no means a comedy knockout, Michael McDonald: Model. Citizen has enough respectable material to be worth a look. Does the actor have a prosperous future in stand-up? Only time will tell, I suppose.
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