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Case Number 11958: Small Claims Court

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The Best Of The Tonight Show: Stand-Up Comedians

R2 Entertainment // 2007 // 123 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // August 29th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Roy Hrab has always wanted to try his hand at stand-up comedy so he could say, "I'll be here all week. Try the veal, it's great!"

The Charge

Punchlines. Zingers. Jokes. Insults.

The Case

This two-disc collection presents a mixed bag of routines from 20 stand-up comedians who appeared on The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson (The Johnny Carson Show) was the "King of Late Night." It covers a wide time period (1974-1991), a variety of acts (observational, physical, props, standard jokes, and random thoughts), and a broad range of personalities (from the subdued to the larger-than-life). Each act is about five minutes long.

Disc One
• Roseanne Barr (August 23, 1985): Barr (Roseanne: The Complete First Season) needs no introduction. Her set includes jokes about her weight, motherhood, and married life. I am not a fan of Roseanne and this performance did nothing to change that opinion.
Grade: C-

• Rich Shydner (August 30, 1984): The name didn't ring a bell, but the face did: Shydner appears as Luke Ventura, a co-worker of Al Bundy, in the first season of Married With Children. His material includes comments about shark attacks, death, and the afterlife. It's a respectable showing.
Grade: B-

• Steven Wright (August 6, 1982): Wright (Steven Wright: When The Leaves Blow Away) makes his first appearance on national television with this performance. He uses his trademark monotone to discuss various bizarre matters. He acquits himself well, but appears nervous.
Grade: B+

• Brett Butler (May 14, 1987): Butler (Grace Under Fire) delivers a set that includes remarks about being a Southerner in New York and Los Angeles. This didn't leave much of an impression on me.
Grade: C+

• Bill Kirchenbauer (August 28, 1978): Another unfamiliar name, but you'll recognize Kirchenbauer as Coach Lubbock on Growing Pains and Just The Ten Of Us. He delivers an intense physical routine, the only one in the collection, consisting of impressions of a garbage truck, chewing gum, and a unique ventriloquist act involving a dummy with no body.
Grade: A-

• Jerry Seinfeld (May 6, 1981): Seinfeld has come a long way since this appearance. He gives his standard observational material, featuring customs, traffic signs, and the world's heaviest man. If you like Seinfeld, you'll probably like this.
Grade: B

• Louie Anderson (November 20, 1984): In his first appearance on national television, Anderson (Coming To America) jokes about his weight, the Olympics, and his family. He tells too many fat jokes for my liking.
Grade: C

• Ronnie Shakes (February 10, 1984): Shakes riffs on his insecurities, psychiatrist, parents, and his mother's cooking. It's a decent performance.
Grade: B

• Kelly Monteith (November 21, 1974): I had never heard of Monteith before seeing him here. He still performs stand-up and, at one point, had his own self-titled show, Kelly Monteith, that ran for six seasons on the BBC. Here Monteith talks about life on the road, how people in various professions identify customers, being a germophobe, and the use (and misuse) of the expression "thank you." It's a polished and amusing performance.
Grade: B+

• Garry Shandling (March 18, 1981): This is Shandling's (The Larry Sanders Show) first appearance on national television. He riffs on babies, his dogs, his father, and memories of Disneyland. A solid performance, but Shandling seems uneasy, although he always seems to look that way.
Grade: B

Disc Two
• Drew Carey (November 8, 1991): This is the one performance that I actually saw on television when I was fourteen. Carey (The Drew Carey Show) jokes about his appearance, high school reunions, drive-through liquor stores, the weather in Ohio, and speeding in the rain. It was really funny when I first watched it and I stand by that view today.
Grade: A

• Sean Morey (June 8, 1981): Morey riffs on working at a supermarket, fruitcake, his father's penchant for scraping burnt toast, and adoption.
Grade: C+

• George Carlin (November 26, 1986): Carlin (George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing) does his usual shtick, commenting about Thanksgiving, hit-and-run accidents, and other randomness. It's a weak set. Carlin says on a couple of occasions that some of the material isn't meant to be funny. He's right.
Grade: D

• David Brenner (October 13, 1981): Brenner (The Aristocrats) actually holds the record for most appearances as a guest on the The Tonight Show; he also guest-hosted a few times. His set focuses on the troubles and weirdness of living in Los Angeles. It's pretty good.
Grade: B+

• Gallagher (February 17, 1982): Gallagher (Gallagher: Melon Crazy) delivering a routine without watermelons? That's what happens here. Instead, wearing a three-piece suit, he goes the observational route. I'm not sure it works, but that could be a result of my watermelon bias.
Grade: B-

• Daryl Sivad (February 24, 1988): Sivad jokes about Webster, his family, television game shows, and Otis Redding.
Grade: B-

• Rita Rudner (February 24, 1988): Rudner (Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist) discusses her family and relationships. It didn't do much for me.
Grade: C

• Maureen Murphy (October 15, 1980): The Australian comedienne riffs on being Australian, marriage, dating in Los Angeles, and politics. Most of the jokes are at the expense of men.
Grade: C+

• Rich Hall (April 21, 1981): You'll recognize Hall if you watch Late Night With Conan O'Brien; he's done stand-up there a number of times. He uses a small set of props and makes extensive use of a piece of plexiglass to tell a string of motorist jokes involving windshields and windows. His routine is too repetitive for my tastes.
Grade: C

• Rodney Dangerfield (February 3, 1981): Dangerfield (Rodney Dangerfield: No Respect: The Ultimate Collection) was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show. He gives a pretty well-honed "No Respect" routine. He then goes on to sit with Carson for a continuation of the set. It's a good performance, perhaps the best in the collection, and a fitting close to the DVD.
Grade: A

None of the routines in the collection will blow you away. This is not a criticism because almost all of the performances here come very early in the careers of these comedians when they were still developing their acts. The real value of this collection is the history it presents in terms of the evolution of the material of some of these comics. Identifying some of the familiar faces with unfamiliar names is also an interesting aspect of the collection. Further, the collection illustrates how the The Tonight Show was the show that all comics aspired to appear on, representing the career peak for some and a springboard to greater (or lesser) fame for others, and it shows how long it took for some of these performers to make it "big."

Also, the 1970s and 1980s suits worn by the comedians are a sight to behold. In some cases, these performances clearly were made long before they could afford the slick fashions afford by celebrity status.

I should note that there is very little of Carson on the DVD. He is typically only seen introducing the comedians.

The video and audio are fine. It's not perfect, but there's not much to complain about. After all, for the most part, the collection is made-up of stationary shots of the performers standing in front of a curtain. The sound is fine; everything can be heard.

There are no extras.

One complaint I have is that some acts appear to have been shortened. For example, in the case of Morey, he introduces himself and then the picture rotates to from left to right, going to a later part of the act. It doesn't look cutting for a commercial break. There are similar cuts during Carey's and Hall's sets.

Overall, this is a decent, if unspectacular, collection of stand-up routines that is worth a look by fans of stand-up comedy. However, it will probably have greater appeal for those who are old enough to have grown-up watching Carson. Contemporary audiences will probably find the material to lack the "edginess" (and profanity) of today's current crop of stand-up comedians, although there is still the appeal of seeing what some of today's comedic stars looked like many years ago. Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 72

Perp Profile

Studio: R2 Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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