Taking the title of this DVD as a dare, Judge Bill Gibron indeed attempted to "tolerate" 80 minutes of this Christian comedian. He didn't succeed.
Comedy for the "other half of America"—the one without a sense of humor
Brad Stine positions himself as a comedian with a difference. He does not swear. He does not champion drugs or alcohol. He will not outwardly condemn or insult. He's an observational comedian in the most mindless and meaningless sense of the word. He sells out shows all around the country and has forged a fledgling empire without the help of the standard show-business machinery or much media exposure. But perhaps the most important element to remember about his stand-up shtick is that Brad Stine is a Christian—a bold-faced Bible-thumping believer through and through. Jesus is not just his Lord and Savior—it's his entire reason for being. Christ is also the purpose behind his limelight crusade. About as anti-evolution and pro-piety as one man can get, Stine has an iron-clad opinion regarding all the important issues, from separation of church and state (which he claims doesn't exist) to intelligent design (which he knows is the truth). Only problem is, his meta-Conservative claims, based solely on these facts floating around in his head, make for a very difficult foundation for funny. He states he is speaking for the part of the United States, those individuals left out of Hollywood's ultra-liberal, left-leaning ludicrousness. He's the Red States' spokesman—though it's unclear just when said locales required a mouthpiece (they did win two elections, didn't they?).
Here's the problem though—Brad Stine is not funny. Not for a single moment. He's like Denis Leary stripped of his relevancy and the potty mouth, or an evangelist with grade-schoolers as his joke writers. It's not because of his beliefs. Bill O'Reilly can be as stuck in the arch-conservative mud as the next muckraker, and he still gets off a good quip or two once in a while, but Stine is a hollow humorist, settling for the simple road to ersatz entertainment. He gets his faithful fan base to show up in droves, sells them exactly what they want to hear, and is rewarded with guffaws so gratuitous that you'd swear there was a laugh track involved. Like that groan-inducer Gallagher, another so-called comedian who wouldn't know humor if it walked up to him and introduced itself, Stine is a sentiment shouter. No gags. No cleverly conceived takes on a subject or individual. He just gets out his set of slogans and delivers them in a daffy, cartoonish caw. A typical Stine joke will go something like this: "You know what's wrong with America? Nothing!" (cue thunderous applause and laughs). Here's another example of his level of wit: "You know, last time I checked, democracy was rule by the people, not one judge!" (cue hoots and hollers).
Yet Stine is not inclusive. He couldn't care less if you believe in Allah, Buddha, or some other deity (or as he would call them, the "wrong" ones). He makes it very clear that men and women are different and should be treated as such (though he does deliver a pro-PC dodge to defend himself against anti-feminist rants), and believes that, since America was founded by Christians, said ideology should form the basis for all policy, both internal and international. Now, all this pro-right rhetoric can be funny. Tucker Carlson is funny. Ann Coulter can be funny (when she's not advocating the murder of Supreme Court Justices, that is). Rush Limbaugh can manage a little amusement now and then. But Stine is serious in his statements, and has to resort to mugging and pratfalls to generate any giggles.
Less you consider this the close-minded criticism of a long-time liberal, it's important to note that, as Mary Poppins said, a spoonful of sugar helps even the most mean-spirited medicine go down. When done well, it transcends its trappings (insensitivity, stereotyping, vulgarity) and actually provides the insight that straight-ahead pontificating misses. The problem with Tolerate This! is that it substitutes jingoism for jest, grandstanding for gaiety, and never once apologizes for its dull, droning derivativeness. After 40 minutes of tiresome sameness, we feel our brains being washed into believing.
The other element that destroys Stine's show is one of credibility. He argues that the separation of church and state is nowhere in the Constitution—conveniently avoiding the entire First Amendment and its "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" language. He states that intelligent design is a fact (so is Santa Claus, supposedly) and that the majority of people want judicial dicta on certain subjects overturned (when polls prove otherwise). There's nothing wrong with living inside your own belief system to satisfy your spiritual or social needs, nor is there anything wrong with preaching to those already converted. But if you want to invite others in, be the truly all-encompassing comic you claim to be, making fun of people and pounding on your head like a monkey (apparently a Stine trademark) will not do it. Being smart, not sanctimonious, would also help. Like a comic zealot without the zingers, Brad Stine: Tolerate This! is not really a stand-up performance. It's a sermon sans the Communion wafer chaser.
From a purely technical standpoint, this is a decent-looking DVD. The 1.33:1 full-screen image is professional and presentable, with nice color correction and a depth of detail. The camerawork is a little crazy, since Stine never stops moving onstage, but overall, the transfer is terrific and gives the entire performance a certain polish and panache. On the sound side, you can enjoy this comic's cavalcade of tirades in pure Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0. There is not a lot of spatial ambience in the presentation (the audience is barely audible at times) but it is still a nice aural offering. As for extras, well, there aren't very many to mention. Want to contact Stine? His management info is offered. Need to know what other Stine products are available for purchase? That's here, too. Along with a minor blooper reel (Stine strikes his head on some pipes while filming the non-concert opening) and a free gift offer from the World Vision charity, there's little else to sell this showman or his showcase.
Not that he needs it, really. Stine is now a homegrown industry, one derived out of a desire to address the stand-up needs of religiously devout individuals. Why his vilifying Will Rodgers routine has to sound so one-sided and mean (though Stine claims it's not supposed to be that way) is a cause for concern. Truth be told, this comedian doesn't care if "others" get it or not. He's got the financial backing of his fire-and-brimstone brethren—and in this pre-afterlife existence, that's all that matters.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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