Appellate Judge Tom Becker has brown bagged it for the last time.
"What do you call a nurse with dirt on her knees? The head
Long before there was a TV show called America's Got Talent, there was The Gong Show, a daily "talent show" program that seemed set to prove that not only do Americans not have talent, they also have too much time on their hands. I'm not going to list the many abominations foisted on the public via the Chuck Barris gonzo classic; you can hit YouTube for that (though make sure you have a strong stomach).
One of the better-remembered acts was the Unknown Comic, a guy with a paper bag covering his head who told dumb jokes. Without the bag, he was one Murray Langston, who'd been doing comedy for a while and took The Gong Show gig to make a few bucks, putting the bag over his head—according to legend—because he was embarrassed at the notion of appearing on a TV show alongside people doing animal imitations, tap-dancing senior citizens, and whatever other atrocities fame-starved denizens of the '70s could dream up.
For some reasons, Langston's brown-bag bit was a hit, and he was able to dine out on the UC character for years after that; even today, thanks in no small part to reruns of The Gong Show, reunion shows, and George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the Unknown Comic is still a recognized brand.
And so, in the early '80s, at the pinnacle of his Unknown fame, Langston did a cable special, The Unknown Comedy Show. Now, almost 30 years later, we get to revisit this glorious, if better forgotten, event.
The disc opens with a title card that gives you the option of skipping over the menu screen. The menu screen contains gross content, and if you don't want to be subjected to gross content, you can go straight to the feature. I opted to see what the fuss was about. They're right. The menu screen features a repulsive graphic, along with options to watch the three features. This is part of Code Red's "Septic Cinema" line, never a favorite of mine, and while I agree with the "Septic" part, there is nothing especially cinematic about these nasty videos.
After retching through the menu, we get The Unknown Comedy Show. This is a lame stand-up comedy show with some lame sketches thrown in. Besides Langston—with and without the brown-paper headpiece—we get someone named Johnny Dark telling bad jokes and doing impressions. We also get a guy named James Marcel juggling things like flaming skewers and chainsaws. James Marcel is actually the highlight of this disc; his juggling is pretty amazing, and he's kinda funny to boot.
This special was evidently made in the early '80s—IMDb lists it as being 1987, but the copyright pegs it as being made in 1982. A Wikipedia entry on Langston suggests this was produced for the Playboy Channel, which explains the profanity and Not Suitable for Network humor. While the stand-up is pretty standard, the dreadful sketches drag this down below C-level; with the glut of stand-up shows currently available on cable, it isn't even worth seeking out as a curiosity piece.
If only this under-an-hour drivel made up the whole of the disc. But wait! There's more! So much more, that it actually brings the judgment down; a rare feat.
In addition to the Unknown (for a reason) Comedy Show, there's a feature called Urban Legends. This, too, is some awful sort of sketch comedy abomination that features a mincing talk show host presiding over a bunch of supposedly scary and gross horror stories. It's just stupid and low-rent. The only thing of interest about it is that it was produced by Bill Osco, who also gave the world the X-rated Alice in Wonderland (1976), The Being, Cop Killers, and Flesh Gordon. While these might not be mighty artistic achievements, compared to Urban Legends, they're sublime classics.
This isn't the first time at the DVD rodeo for Urban Legends; in fact, it was released a few years ago by a different label, and reviewed here by Judge Dave Johnson (and pretty much no one else in the whole of Internet land). I don't feel comfortable trashing something after Judge Johnson has already trashed it so eloquently, but I can add something to his review, a puzzle piece that I'm sure has been haunting him: In his review, Dave mentions the odd inclusion of some cheesy sketch comedy during the Urban Legends proceedings. Well, guess where that sketch comedy came from? Yes, that's right, all the crap from The Unknown Comedy Show has been plunked into Urban Legends.
Thus, we have a thematic connection between the two pieces, and a viewer who has made it through The Unknown Comedy Show has the option of either sitting through the dreadful sketches for a second time or getting a refreshing thumb workout with the fast-forward button.
Also included—as it was included on the earlier release of Urban Legends—is The Art of Nude Bowling, a short film in which people bowl naked, with snarky commentary from the guy who did snarky commentary in Urban Legends. This was also made by Osco, so see how this disc is connected? Unknown Comic—Unknown Comic recycled by Bill Osco—Bill Osco short. Incidentally, one of the nude bowling women is morbidly obese, and I think I recognized her from a niche porn movie I saw called Life in the Fat Lane. That's a real movie. You can look it up.
The disc from Code Red sports wretched transfers for all three features. There is a supplement: an audio commentary for Urban Legends featuring Carl Crew, who evidently wrote this thing. As is often the case, the commentary is infinitely more interesting than the movie, with Crew offering a look back at working with Osco.
A dismal set.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
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