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"North Korea is the country the monkeys from The Wizard of Oz came from."
DVD ReviewRecorded by HBO in April 2006 at Washington D.C.'s Warner Theater, comedian Lewis Black mounts a sputtering tirade against governmental stupidity in Red, White and Screwed. I don't see this being in President Bush's NetFlix queue anytime soon, but for the rest of us who are frustrated and exasperated at some of the inanity that comes from our political leaders, well, we can revel in Black's blunt rants about Bush, Dick Cheney's hunting abilities or the search for weapons of mass destruction.
Maybe it's the locationóbeing D.C.óbut Black's set here is decidedly more politics-oriented than some of his other stand-up performances, though he does toss a few grenades on the Bible and the Terry Schiavo controversy. But those are the rare non-political/governmental sidetracks, because once he gets past explaining how he couldn't perform at The Kennedy Center because of his habit of dropping the "f-bomb," the heart of this particular set has him going after the inadequacies of the government with great vitriol.
He tries to be slightly nonpartisan by condemning the Democrats for picking John Kerry to run against Bush, comparing him to a regular guy who couldn't win at the Special Olympics. That quip got Black some awkward "oohs" from the crowd, a group that for the most part seems to follow along with his way of thinking. But as a comic, Black seems to like to go up to that fine line and just pushes his toes a little over. He builds his thoughts in thin layers of compounded aggravation, often speaking in quiet, measured sentences until he erupts in an explosion of well-placed expletives that express his frustration.
There's a nice chunk here that closes the set about Black's new and improved plan for electing a president, involving American Idol, darts, a parachute and a monkey. It's atypical of the comic's absurd reality, one that often doesn't necessarily seem all that unreasonable. The iffy thing about political humor is that it isn't always all that funny, because ripping Republicans or Democrats for the sake of ripping can be a cheap laugh-getter. Black has a coarse honesty, one that is immediately either in line or not with your personal viewpoint. If you're happy with the government response to Hurricane Katrina, you may want to look elsewhere for your comedy.
And that means you, Michael Brown.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Black's live show is presented in its original HBO 1.33:1 aspect ratio. He wears a dark suit against a fairly dull background, but edge details are still strong, and fleshtones look natural, especially on close-ups. Audience reaction shots have a bit of grain, but nothing too distracting.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Two audio choices, available in either English language 2.0 or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Either mix is suitable for Black's standup act, though the 5.1 gives a slight impression of a wider, more spacious "live" feel. Audience cues get routed to the rears in small doses, like the occasional cackle or chuckle, but the majority of the presentation is split across the front channels.
No big gimmicks here, just clear voice quality and some minor discrete laughter cues.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Extras consist of five additional short pieces, the best being Lewis Black Probes Uncle Sam (02m:27s), a skit in which the comedian performs a medical exam of an ailing, out of shape Uncle Sam ("Have you been shortsighted lately?"). There are some funny gags here, though not so with the outtake reel dubbed Why Lewis Black Shouldn't Be a Doctor (02m:31s). The other three segments are more of behind-the-scenes tours, from the location in Lewis Black: Bucknaked in D.C. (03m:12s) to his tour bus in Ride The Short Bus With Lewis Black (03m:36s), to some warmup rehearsal shtick in Lewis Black Behind the Scenes with the Box Office Girl (03m:36s).
The disc is cut into 15 chapters, and is close-captioned for the hearing impaired.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsLewis Black retains his "very angry American" status in Red, White and Screwed, which translates into 75 minutes of vicious attacks on President George Bush, the war in Iraq, Dick Cheney and the real meaning of the lesser of two evils.
Your appreciation of Black's dead-on jabs will be hinged on your political bent, but for what it's worth I found him hilarious.
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