For the past few years, the release of stand-up CDs and DVDs seems to be more popular than ever. Sometimes a production company will release just a CD or just a DVD– sometimes they’re packaged together. The DVDs listed below fall under one of the last two categories. And although we, at Punchline Magazine, are bigger fans of the plain comedy album, sometimes, we admit, some material translates better on DVD. Here, in our opinion, are the 10 best stand-up comedy DVDs released in 2009. Please enjoy and let us know what your favorites of the year are in the comments section. (Be sure to check out our best albums of 2009 here).
#10 — DANA GOULD – LET ME PUT MY THOUGHTS IN YOU
Directed by comedy nerd god Bob Odenkirk, stand-up and comedy writing vet Dana Gould’s Let Me Put My Thoughts In You is a long-awaited concert film representation of one of the most well-respected names in comedy. Though for the last few years, Gould’s been making most of his living producing and writing for the likes of The Simpsons and Parks and Recreation, Thoughts proves Gould’s heart still lies in stand-up. Shot a bit differently than most stand-up DVDs, it invokes the feel of an 80s-era concert documentary (check out the stage décor), with fast camera pans, sudden zooms to highlight Gould’s vocal cadence and even a few shots of another camera’s view finder filming the show in real time. But most importantly Gould somehow manages to earnestly deliver bits indie comedy fans would knock – “Really, jokes about your wife making you run errands?” – and the absolutely absurd. His dedication to both is commendable and proves consistently funny throughout the show. Buy Dana Gould: Let Me Put My Thoughts In You
#9 — JIM BREUER – LET’S CLEAR THE AIR
Though Saturday Night Live alum Jim Breuer had been largely away from the stand-up comedy stage for the last six years, he came back strong this year, with Let’s Clear the Air, an hour special that’s equal parts funny and career statement. As the title implies, the DVD’s material focuses on the transition Breuer has made from stoner comic to family man; he even shows photos of his daughters throughout. And the structure of this stellar set mirrors his life; the first third pegs stories to his past, the second third is all about his family, which melts gracefully into what the future holds for comedian as the final installment of the concert. This is a must-buy for true Breuer fans or for anyone who likes their family humor with a slight edge. Buy Jim Breuer: Let’s Clear the Air
#8 — JIM GAFFIGAN – KING BABY
Jim Gaffigan has done it yet again: he’s produced an incredibly entertaining hour of material based largely around food and the concept of being lazy. Even when he seemingly veers off from food, like in his bit about deodorant, he injects bacon back in. But the fact is, when you have a delivery as uniquely funny as Gaffigan’s it’s likely that most any material is going to be well-received. His now famous “inner voice,” low, rich bellow and his constantly crinkled, pale face turns his already well-written material into something wholly quotable and worthy of repeated plays– just like everything else he’s released. Buy Jim Gaffigan: King Baby
|Jim Gaffigan – Most Beautiful Thing on Earth|
#7 — DANE COOK – ISOLATED INCIDENT
After putting out back-to-back concert releases set in monster-sized arenas – Vicious Circle and Rough Around the Edges – Dane Cook decided to temporarily mute the rock star volume and put out something a bit more intimate. It worked to great effect. Cook’s Isolated Incident was shot at his home club – the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles – with nary a bell and whistle in site. A rarity in the stand-up concert film business, the final product was the result of one show with no cuts or edits. Challenging himself even more than he did on Rough, wherein we saw a darker, bluer Cook, Incident found Cook heavily lacing downright angry passages (in “Haters” he intelligently yet aggressively addresses those who live to knock him down) and deeply personal stories – namely about his parents dying of cancer within months of each other – between his energetic and hilariously graphic story telling style. This DVD further proves that, despite what the “haters” anonymously say online – forget the millions of fans, the motion pictures, the hype, all the preconceived notions – Cook is a skilled comic who’s constantly evolving. Buy Dane Cook: ISolated INcident
|Dane Cook – Internet Hate|
#6 — JIMMY SHUBERT – ALIVE AND KICKIN’
Jimmy Shubert does not share the typical bleeding-heart point of view of most comedians. He wants to arm passengers on a plane to take out terrorists. And he doesn’t mind being completely insensitive to women—so long as he’s funny about it. And you know what? He’ll take his time poking fun at Siamese twins attached at the head. Shubert is old-school. He’s a lovable, hoarse-throated curmudgeon on hyper drive and Alive and Kickin’ finds him at his best. Although there’s a decent amount of older Shubert material on this collection, it serves as the perfect primer for the uninitiated and the perfect all-in-one collection – it comes with an audio version so you can drop it on your iPod – for the dedicated Shubert fan. Also be sure to check out the well-produced short film at the start of the DVD; it features comedians Gary Valentine, Billy Gardell and Joey Diaz. Buy Alive & Kickin’ (DVD with CD)
#5 — MITCH FATEL – MITCH FATEL IS MAGICAL
Although Mitch Fatel has released two highly popular albums throughout his career, Mitch Fatel is Magical marks his first one-hour special – aired first on Comedy Central – and subsequent DVD release. If you know one thing about Mitch it’s this: he’s dirty. But he does it in such a way (like a precocious boy) wherein after hearing an hour of vagina talk, you may not even realize the extent of how x-rated the show you just saw actually was. To enjoy Fatel, it helps to have a one track mind or at least have access to a one-track mind; otherwise the extended monologues on inverted nipples, orgies and hand jobs are going to be lost on you. Lucky for us, we’re happy living through Fatel’s twisted mind. Buy Mitch Fatel: Mitch Fatel Is Magical
#4 — PETE CORREALE – THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE
Though it may have seemed Pete Correale came out of nowhere this year, this New York-based comic has been building his reputation in Manhattan and on the road across the country as one of the nation’s most respected comedians for the better part of a decade. The Things we do for Love is proof that, in the proper hands, even traditional stand-up fodder – marriage, sex, aging – can be hilarious and inspired. Correale doesn’t blow minds with absurdist humor or topics from outer space. Rather, he reestablishes what we all experience and gives us many more brand new reasons to laugh at our lives. Correale is a craftsman, inventing immaculate jokes out of messy situations. Buy Pete Correale: The Things We Do For Love
#3 — CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN – AU CONTRAIRE!
In a scenario that’s becoming increasingly common for comedians looking to break out of the comedy club setting, Christian Finnegan’s second recorded effort, Au Contraire! was expertly filmed at Philadelphia’s Trocodero Theatre, a venue more known as one of the best punk and metal venues in the country than it is a place for great comedy. But Finnegan made the space his home, delivering a performance, from an aesthetic point of view, that brought back old-school vaudevillian charm (Old Tyme fonts onstage, Old Tyme intro and outro music, Finnegan’s dandy vest with rolled-up sleeves). From an artistic angle, Au Contraire! is reminiscent of the way George Carlin approached his specials; that is, it’s clear Finnegan takes pride in the structure of a joke, phrasing language, theatrics and memorizing thematic movements word for word. This concert is not just another show, but a great piece of art that happens to be hilarious. Buy Au Contraire!
#2 — JIM JEFFERIES – I SWEAR TO GOD
If you even half pay attention to this hour-long concert – first shown on HBO – by the end you’ll either feel horribly filthy inside or greatly relieved and maybe even justified that you’re such a fucking degenerate. In the vein of Jim Norton, Jefferies spends some time telling stories of his questionable drug and sex habits all the while downing pint after pint onstage. But it’s not just the x-rated topics that make this show entertaining. That Jefferies does it all artfully is what makes this performance special. His way of life may be dangerous, risky and poorly thought out; but Jim Jefferies’ stand-up is anything but. Clearly he treats the comedy writing process better than he does his own body. And that’s a great thing– for us, anyway. Buy Jim Jefferies: I Swear to God
#1 — TOM RHODES – RHODE SCHOLAR
Tom Rhodes is a comic’s comic—well respected in the industry as a tireless road horse but sorely overlooked by the comedy consuming public at large. In Rhode Scholar, his second independently released DVD, the always finely dressed, hippie-minded Rhodes literally travels the world. Part stand-up documentary, part video travelogue, the eternally positive comedian, takes his viewers to 38 cities around the world, and not just the major cities you’d expect a comedian to perform. We see Rhodes, among other places, in Rotterdam, Antwerp, Jakarta, Osaka and Amsterdam, taking as much pride in telling jokes as he is in learning about different cultures and then teaching us.
While the audio and video of his live performances don’t meet the quality standards of most commercially released concert discs, it’s hardly the point. And to be honest you’re going to have to check out tomrhodes.net to get updates on when and where you can get this treasure. This is a work full of love— an epic project that shows the ever-growing reach of stand-up comedy and the power it has to humanize the world, that is, if it’s in the hands of a man like Tom Rhodes. Scholar comes with a bonus disc, which is more of a traditional concert DVD that finds Rhodes performing his one-man show Built For Joy, a set full of slides projected on the wall, stories and straight-up stand-up material that constantly leaps from deeply personal to all-encompassing observational.
Be sure to check out Punchline Magazine‘s list of the 10 best stand-up comedy albums of 2009.