Judge Jim Thomas has been unbalanced for years, and it hasn't gotten his own HBO special. Doesn't seem fair, does it?
Bold and Unhinged.
Eh, not so much.
When a performance goes to the trouble of labeling itself as "unfair," "unbalanced," "bold," and "unhinged," I'm a little skeptical, and that's not simply because of the damage a certain news organization has done to the concept of "fair" and "balanced." Sure enough, Robert Klein's latest HBO outing, Robert Klein: Unfair & Unbalanced, is hardly cutting edge satire; recorded on June 10, 2010, in Fort Lauderdale, it's charming, witty, and entertaining, but ultimately safe and easily forgotten.
Don't get me wrong—Robert Klein (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) is a funny guy, and ridiculously talented. He was nominated for a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for They're Playing Our Song back in 1979. He starred in "Wordplay," one of the better episodes from the 1985 The Twilight Zone revival. But at heart, he's always been a comedian—in fact, he had the very first HBO comedy special, An Evening With Robert Klein, back in 1975. This time out, Klein is joined by a full orchestra, opening with an amusing hymn about the need for President Obama to avoid Clinton's fate and "keep it in his pants." It's kind of funny, but a year and a half after Obama's inauguration, there's little resonance. It's something of a misstep—praying that Obama will keep it zipped is like asking God to keep you warm during the middle of a heat wave.
Even with that odd beginning, there's some good stuff here. Klein riffs on getting old, working with Jennifer Lopez and Joan Rivers, customer service, and watching The Sopranos on A&E. The musical interludes are interesting enough, but he launches into them with no sort of introduction, and the lack of any real focus keeps the performance from getting up much momentum, particularly with a relatively short 60 minute runtime.
Technically the disc is pretty solid. Video is clean and crisp, and the sound is clear. What do you expect: as a general rule, comedy discs do not test the limits of technology. No extras.
A title like "Unfair and Unbalanced" suggests more of a biting, satirical approach. It may be my own fault for listening to so much George Carlin, but I'm not a fan of gentle satire. Go for the jugular, nuke the site from orbit, rip off their nads and hold them in front of them, pick your metaphor, but I want satire with some teeth.
Guilty of being a genial yet unremarkable disc which succeeds more on Klein's considerable charm than on the material.
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