Judge Dennis Prince believes there's nothing funny about a fart in church. Wait—that would be funny but, unfortunately, this spiritually grounded comedy isn't.
"Smart. Edgy. Funny." Uh, not so much.
Let the record show that I am an avid fan of "clean humor." Sure, all the f-bombs and other colorful language and situations that populate the humor of, say, George Carlin, Chris Rock, or George Lopez make for a side-splitting good time—just don't let the kids or grandma overhear. So when clean humor comes around, it can be a good time of guffaws minus the guilt. That's the premise of Thou Shalt Laugh 2: The Deuce—humor that you can share during fellowship time following Sunday's devotional. The premise is good but, sadly, the result isn't.
Following on the heels of the seemingly successful Thou Shalt Laugh, this second go-round brings back two performers from the first show then adds in three new folks plus a new guest host, Tim Conway. Without question, Conway is legendary in comedy, gaining his well-deserved reputation while on The Carol Burnett Show and then through the successful Dorf series. Here, Conway serves as Master of Ceremonies for an evening of clean and spiritually-approved (?) laughs. His contribution includes a warm up bit plus additional snippets interspersed between the featured comedians. The only trouble is he's not terribly funny this time around. He focuses on humor about his marriage, various self-deprecating admissions, and a slow shuffle as "The Old Man," but none of this can elicit much more that polite laughter and smiles from an audience hopeful that the featured jokesters will bring the roof down.
The show proper starts off with return performer Thor Ramsey, an energetic fellow who focuses on the ironies of family life. Although he's perpetual motion while on stage (especially during his cheerleader routine), he fails to connect with the audience in a meaningful way to start a thread of his act, thereby delivering a series of one-off gags, a few that bring a light chuckle but most that don't. Next up is Indian-Japanese comic, Dan Naiman, who fares better when he immediately speaks what's on the audience's mind: "what nationality is this guy?" He then goes on to focus on racial humor, none of which is offensive except to, perhaps, the most hypersensitive among us. The lone comedienne in the lineup, Victoria Jackson, steps up next and is immediately unfunny. Donning a whiny blonde-bimbo persona, she tells tired blonde jokes, recites a few silly rhymes, and wraps up with an unusual ukulele performance in memory of a friend that lost a real-life battle with cancer. After this, 'Bone' Hampton bursts onto stage and provides a cleaned-up rendition of a Chris Rock-meets-Cedric the Entertainer shtick, and some of it works. Unfortunately, Bone seems to lose his pacing a couple of times and the performance suffers for it. Lastly comes the best performer, puppeteer Taylor Mason, also returning from the first show. His puppeteering of a pig named Paco and a twenty-something dude named Romeo goes over well, thanks to he excellent delivery and decision to call up an audience member to offer a hand (two, actually). He then breaks into a routing seated at a piano, the capable jazz and blues musician interspersing comic lines among his excellent playing. But, when all is said and done, the overall impact can likely only muster up a "well, isn't that special" from the local church lady. It's pleasant, but that's about all and the numerous audience shots reveal the large crowd was expecting and hoping for something much, much funnier. Curiously, this DVD includes a printed guarantee: "If you don't think Thou Shalt Laugh's clean comedians are as funny as their foul-mouthed counterparts, we'll buy you one of their DVDs." It's as if, somehow, they knew, ya think?
The Lord does work in mysterious ways.
As for the DVD itself, it's again a bit disappointing in that the 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is non-anamorphic (whereas the previous DVD was anamorphic). Therefore, expect to either watch the proceeding in an unnatural stretched mode or shrunk down to a little window box floating within your 16:9 monitor. The image quality is somewhat soft although not distractingly so. The audio is presented in a clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix although the background music is oddly amplified similar to when a car dealer's commercial assaults you in between plays of the ballgame. There's a single extra on the disc, a few minutes with each comedian as they provide their thoughts about the 10 Commandments; nothing Earth-shattering here.
In the end, it came as a disappointment to me that this follow-up disc didn't play as well as the first. Yes, the humor is clean and family-friendly, but so much so that it fails to command a repeat performance. It's a shame to have come to this conclusion but such are the facts. Perhaps the best thing going for these "Christian comedians" is that, even if they bomb, they're forgive.
Amen. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Grace Hill Media
• Some Thoughtful Musings on the Ten Commandments
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