Saturday, January 3, 2009

Louis C.K.: Chewed Up

Louis C.K. has one of the most impressive and respected bodies of work in the comedy world. He's written for shows like Late Show with David Letterman, the terribly underrated The Dana Carvey Show, The Chris Rock. Show, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and "TV Funhouse" segments for Saturday Night Live. He even had a short-lived series on HBO based loosely on his life titled Lucky Louie. Not only is he an impressive comedy writer, but he's one of the best stand-up comedians of the newer generation. I say "newer generation" with a bit of hesitation since I'm giving it a gray area of post-George Carlin and Richard Pryor, still within the realm of Jerry Seinfeld and Steven Wright, but not reaching into Zach Galifianakis or Demetri Martin territory. Got it? Good. So, why is it Louis CK isn't as well known as some of his peers? It's something I've never been able to figure out myself, but among comedians and those who know of his work, they are extremely grateful for his presence.

Chewed Up is the follow-up special to his successful 2007 special Shameless. Here we get a bare bones set that is just a stage with a black backdrop and a few stage lights, which is refreshing and complimentary to his style of standup. There are no flashy lights, loud music, or someone screaming his name as he comes out; it's just him, the man, Louis C.K. doing standup from his heart and gut. And that's exactly what Louis C.K.'s standup is, honest and true standup that comes straight from a man without it seeming manufactured or false. What we see and hear is what we get. It is often said in comedy that sometimes the truer things are and the more someone can identify, the better. Louis C.K. nails it and takes it even further.

Some will criticize this special for being extremely un-PC. But here's the thing, there are few comedians around who can discuss language, race, love, fear, parenthood, and just life in general in a smart, honest, and genuine way. That's because it comes from the heart and gut rather than it seeming like it's there purely for shock value. You have people like Louis C.K. or Dave Chappelle who just get it and can articulate it perfectly. Then you have people like Carlos Mencia who don't have a single clue how to approach it without it seeming like they're just spewing it for the sake of hearing themselves say "shocking" things. One subject people were upset about with Louis C.K. before was how he spoke about his children. He would call them assholes and idiots (as he does in this special), but it's in the delivery and the context that you see he does love his children; he's just verbalizing what a lot of parents think in their mind for those moments of agony. He says himself he loves and would die for his children; he's just expressing that frustration through an unfiltered comic view. 

Another great thing about Louis C.K. is how he can take worn territory that we've seen standup comedians take millions of time and still make it seem fresh and genuine. Whether it's talking about his issues with weight and eating ("The meal is over when I hate myself"), being 40 and getting older, or sex and parenthood, it's his presentation, passion, and originality behind it that makes it seem like you're hearing jokes of this nature with fresh ears. His special is at its best during the halfway point when he starts discussing his family. When he talks about having to change diapers and clean a "tiny vagina" and why he would prefer that than to having to clean a son's diaper because of his experiences and fears with his nephews is just hilarious. Try your best not to laugh out loud as he describes his fear of falling asleep in a lawn chair with his nephews around.

The special features are extremely bare, but you get an interview with Louis C.K. in which he addresses the camera and answers what I assume to be fan questions. The sound is a bit poor, but he answers everything from why his special is named what it is (you'll know why by the last joke in the special), how he writes his material, what inspired the look of the special (with special nods to Pryor and Bill Cosby), why he does boxing training and how it relates to standup, and advice to people trying to do standup. The best part of it is when he discusses the philosophy of his comedy. I know it might sound a bit self indulgent, but it's not and it gives a lot of insight into why his comedy really is so rooted in more honest and truthful material. Overall, it makes the one little special feature worth it for fans of Louis C.K. or even standup comedy in general.

It's fitting that the special was dedicated to the memory of George Carlin. Carlin was a comic who cut through the bullshit and told it straight from his point of view and told it with sincerity and with conviction straight from the gut. It's a characteristic and philosophy you see very clearly with Louis C.K. I think Carlin would have approved. Fans of standup should certainly check out Louis C.K.: Chewed Up (as well as other his work).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sarah Silverman Program - Season Two, Vol. One

Thank God, Comedy Central didn't cancel this show. For every bad show Comedy Central has on the air (Mind of Mencia) they seem to cancel two or three great ones. I'm still pissed they canceled Upright Citizens Brigade for Battlebots. Luckily, The Sarah Silverman Program avoided the axe and survived to see another season. People are pretty divided with this show. Some people love it while others can't stand it. I think it's because The Sarah Silverman Program has such a distinct style and voice that it really does have a certain audience, but it should be given the credit it really deserves.

Some might be annoyed that this release isn't a complete season. The writer's strike put a halt on the series last season (only at six episodes) but continued the rest of the season recently. I for one am not annoyed by their decision to release a Volume 1 set. I say this because I'd rather have it out than have to wait for the rest of the season to end (10 more episodes) and wait for them to release the DVD. Sure, you have to buy two volumes and I wouldn't put it past them to release the whole season at a later date, but too much time was taken in between and it makes sense to have this release. Also this means they're able to provide more extras, especially commentary, which I'm keen on.

The Sarah Silverman Program follows the everyday life of Sarah Silverman, her two gay neighbors and friends Brian and Steve (played by the straight Brian Posehn and Steve Agee), her sister Laura (played by her actual sister Laura Silverman) and Laura's cop boyfriend Jay (played by Jay Johnston). What makes the show enjoyable is that it doesn't follow the conventional sitcom formula and is even a step above programs that attempt the same thing.

What really makes this show is not Silverman (although she is great in this), but rather the supporting players. The cast is strong and very funny. Brian Posehn (Mr.Show, Comedians of Comedy and Just Shoot Me) and Steve Agee (best known from the "Chad Vader" shorts) have some of the best B and C storylines in the show and Laura Silverman (The Comeback, Dr. Katz) plays a great "straight man" or voice of reason in the chaos that goes on in this world, not to mention the naïve goofiness and often wet blanket character that Jay Johnston (Mr.Show) plays as Laura's boyfriend. Even the bit parts standout and flesh out the show. I was happy to see the return of the strange and hilarious characters The Mustangs (one of them is played by writer Chris Ramono) and the dark tone they took on in the episode "Doodie". There's also the return of God (played by Tucker Smallwood), Jay's coworker's Paul and Tig (both outstanding stand-up comedians played by Paul F. Topmkins and Tig Notaro) and the introduction of Mini Coffee, host of Cookie Party (played by Rob Schrab). It's this supporting cast of characters and bit parts that really make The Sarah Silverman Program as enjoyable as it is.

What I love about this show the most is the writing. When you can take the "real" world and have unrealistic and bizarre things happen and it not raise a question of believability or rationalization is great. It's there and it may be odd but it serves the purpose for comedic effect. It's something that shows like Strangers With Candy, Stella and The Adventures of Pete and Pete did so well. It's those hilarious fantastical things that take the show to another level that your average run-of-the-mill comedy show would never take a chance on.

Just like Silverman's standup, there are some pretty controversial topics covered but in a way only Silverman (and very few others) can pull off. For instance, there's the episode "Face Wars" where Silverman dons in black face in order to see what's it's like to black for a day and how they face prejudice. Yeah, it sounds terrible, but you have to watch it to really understand its context. The episode "Ah, Men", where she dates God and the episode "Bored of the Rings," which dealt with abortion, were also episodes that got some flak when they aired. I can see why people would be sensitive to it, but it's done in such a ridiculous and funny way that I can't understand how anyone could take the material so seriously and to heart.

The Sarah Silverman Program - S2, V1 has a great comedy team behind it. Writers Rob Schrab, Dan Harmon, Chris Romano, and Jon Schroeder have all done things for Channel 101 (awesome website with hilarious shorts), Human Giant, Heat Vision and Jack (the popular Jack Black and Owen Wilson Knight Rider-esque pilot that never made it on Fox) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Acceptable TV (which was VERY underrated), the film Monster House and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Directors Schrab, Wayne McClammy and Steven K. Tsuchida really bring out the show's strong comedic points and are perfect to bring to life the unique material written. Schrab is best known for his Channel 101 shorts like "Twigger's Holiday" and "Ringwald and Molly" and the short film "Robot Bastard". McClammy was the director for the "I'm F**king Matt Damon" video which was seen on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Tsuchida did the acclaimed short "A Ninja Pays Half My Rent". Then there are the producers of the show that include Todd Barry (very funny stand-up), Megan Murphy (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Erin O'Malley (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Da Ali G Show and Greg The Bunny), Chris Smirnoff (Greg The Bunny and The PJs), Stephanie Meurer (Robot Chicken) as well as some of the writers and directors I mentioned earlier. Whew! An impressive roster that is evident in the end product.

The extras are pretty entertaining. I was very pleased with the commentary since they do offer some good insight and stories behind the episodes. My only problem with it is that there's no commentary for the episode "Joan of Arf". Other extras include the 2007 Comic Con panel, which is okay. It's only okay because the questions asked weren't all that great. Why is it at these panels the people who shouldn't ask questions always get a chance to ask them and waste good time? Then there are two digital shorts that include an animated feature called "Steve and Brian's Basement Adventure" (which was written and directed Justin Roiland who did the very funny web shorts "House of Cosbys") and a live-action short called "Brian's New Office". Also included are the animated shorts "Cookies Come Alive! Part I, II and III" (They're supposed to be the cartoons that are shown during "Cookie Party" and even have intros from Mini Coffee and Ookie) and finally Behind-The-Scenes shorts that are actually more sketches than anything really behind the scenes.

So far the rest of season two airing currently has held up and continues to keep me tuning in every week and hoping Comedy Central doesn't slip up and rob it of a much deserved third season. If you're a fan of Silverman and The Sarah Silverman Program (or even the type of humor I mentioned earlier with similar shows in tone and structure), I highly recommend you pick this DVD (and its first season) up.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Foot Fist Way

For about a year or two now I kept hearing about this low budget comedy called The Foot Fist Way starring an unknown but hilarious actor by the name of Danny McBride. Comedians like Patton Oswalt would talk about it and commentaries on films like Superbad and Hot Rod (both of which Danny McBride appeared in) would mention The Foot Fist Way. Once I saw McBride's performance in Hot Rod and heard about this small film he did, I was a bit annoyed I wouldn't be able to see it since it wasn't available to see anywhere (at least close), even on DVD. Thankfully Will Ferrell and Adam McKay stepped in and picked up the distribution rights so it could get a proper release. It also helped that McBride had roles in the successful summer films Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express. There are a good number of people in the comedy world who love this movie and were hoping it'd be a surprise hit, but when the movie was released, it didn't seem to have that effect. But now that it's out on DVD, it might be able to find that larger audience.

The Foot Fist Way (which is the literal English translation of Tae Kwon Do) is about a Tae Kwon Do instructor by the name of Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) who proclaims himself the "king of the demo" (a demonstration of Tae Kwon Do). When Simmons finds out his wife (Mary Jane Bostic) has cheated on him, he begins to slip and become even more of an aggressive and insulting person than he originally was. After an encounter with his hero Chuck "The Truck" Wallace (played by co-writer Ben Best), he starts to turn things around, at least until he is betrayed once again by his wife and his hero Chuck "The Truck" Wallace. Simmons then has to find a way to rise above these unfortunate events and find the "strength" to pull it all together and to prove himself.

Based on what I had heard of this film and what I've seen McBride accomplish in recent films, I was expecting something completely laugh-out loud hilarious. No, this is not a laugh-out loud kind of movie and that's not a bad thing. It has a unique style of being very funny. I hate how people use the Napoleon Dynamite tag for whenever a new "indie" film comes along that shows some kind of subtle and or particular style of humor, so I refuse to compare it to that film. One thing I hate about the cover of this DVD is that they use a quote that mentions Napoleon Dynamite. Shut up! Retire it! But, it definitely has that feel of its own sense of humor that isn't completely spelled out or thrown in your face. Granted there are moments that are laugh-out loud funny, but the charm is in its style of having that particular and peculiar sense of humor.

McBride does a great job playing Simmons. He is a jerk, but you still find yourself hoping he pulls through. To a certain degree it evokes a reaction similar to when you see Ricky Gervais as David Brent on The Office (British version). You know they're a complete ass, but there's still enough humanity in them that you can't help but want some kind of pay-off for the character. The kids cast in this are used perfectly and the supporting cast is also great, especially Jody Hill (the director of this film) as Simmons' creepy and intense friend Mike. The characters are all believable even in their weird ways and weird situations, but that's just one of the ingredients that makes this film work.

The low budget and special tone of the film gives it this unique feel I didn't expect to have when watching it. It's that feeling you get from that movie you can share with friends when you have a few beers and need a good late night movie to throw on. It's similar to the feeling I got when I saw movies like Bottle Rocket or even Office Space. It just feels somewhat comfortable and something that feels special and your own. Part of it may stem from the fact I grew up and went to college in a similar environment and felt like the characters (their style, language, and their mannerisms) and even the neighborhoods and businesses were familiar. It's weird to say, but it's like that good friend you know is flawed but love to see because they're strangely comforting and you know you're going to get drunk and have a blast with them.

Extras include Commentary, Behind The Scenes (which actually feels like a strange music video with behind-the-scenes footage), Bloopers, Deleted and Extended Scenes, and an Alternate Ending. These features aren't too much to write home about, but there is a pretty funny deleted scene involving Julio and the punching dummy. The Alternate Ending is entertaining because you can definitely see why they cut it. It's pretty funny, but goes pretty out there even for their world.

The Foot Fist Way may not floor you or have you laughing out loud at every scene, but it does accomplish being an entertaining comedy that has its own voice, which is very refreshing these days. Grab some beers, invite some friends over, pop this DVD in and enjoy. I have a feeling The Foot Fist Way will finally find the audience it's been looking for and deserves.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia : Season 3

"The gang" is back for season three of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This is easily one of the best comedies on television today, and odds are you've probably never seen it. Very few television comedies can achieve what It's Always Sunny... pulls off with what seems like effortless ease and in this third season it really finds its stride and makes for some unique and original comedic television.

It's Always Sunny... revolves around the lives of four delightfully egotistical and self-serving friends who run a pub in Philadelphia. That's pretty much it. The show has been called "Seinfeld on Crack" which is actually a good description because the show deals with situations and conversations you would probably have in everyday life but they heighten the living the hell out of it and blow it to hilarious proportions.

A complaint some had about Seinfeld is that the characters were unsympathetic. If you're one of those people, then It's Always Sunny... is not for you. And if that's the case I feel very sorry for you. The characters can be seen as unsympathetic, but there's a great balance they've found with the show to where you do care about the main characters and can't help but watch what happens next. The characters do deplorable things to get their way, but in strange way, it's a cast of underdog characters who happen to have little morals. It's that underdog element and the way their motives are so cranked up that it keeps you hooked without tuning out. Even watching how they completely ruin the lives of fairly innocent characters, like Rickety Cricket and the Waitress, you can't help but be entertained and enjoy their tragic turns. It's something that's so tricky to pull off in comedy without being completely mean, but It's Always Sunny... knows how to execute it perfectly.

The season starts off strong with "The Gang Finds A Dumpster Baby" and continues being solid with episodes like "The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation," "Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire," and "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender." However, it seems to get weaker at the end of the season but even the "weak" episodes are better and funnier than most comedies currently on television. This season features probably the best episode of the series, " Sweet Dee Dates a Retarded Person," in which you get to witness the debut of Charlie's musical masterpieces "Night Man" and "Day Man." You'll be singing the "Day Man" theme for months after seeing it.
The cast is a big part of why this show works so well. Danny DeVito is great as usual, but the chemistry between Charlie Day, Glen Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Kaitlin Olson is fantastic. It's a cast that works so well together and can make misery look like ecstasy. The standout actor for me is Day who is extremely funny in this show. His mannerisms and way of speaking and reacting are some of the funniest character work around. I say "character work," but it makes me wonder how much of it is him or the character. That's why this cast works so well. Nothing seems forced or fake. It all flows naturally even when the situations are extremely ridiculous.

The special features in this set are entertaining but a bit spare. Special features include Commentary, Sunny Side Up Volume 2 Featurette, Meet The McPoyles Featurette, Danicing Guy Featurette, Gag Reel, and Season 3 TV spots. The features are fun, especially how they make comments at the expense of the directors (All three are former "child" actors, most notably Fred Savage). But I really wish this set had more commentary tracks. The two supplied for the episodes "The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation" and "Dennis Looks Like..." are funny, but I really would have loved some commentary on other episodes like "Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire" and "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person".

This may not be a comedy everyone can enjoy, but it should be. There's so much pleasure to be had with all the twisted and hilarious things this show offers. Turn the dial down on your PC filters, sit back and treat yourself to the hilarious gem that is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Juliana Hatfield- How To Walk Away

Juliana Hatfield was one of my biggest musical crushes back in the '90s. I remember seeing the video for "My Sister" and then watching an episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete where Hatfield plays "Emma the lunch-line worker" and falling in love. Shortly after I bought The Juliana Hatfield Three's Become What You Are and recall the feeling of a justified love through music. Fast forward to present day where Juliana's 10th solo album, How To Walk Away, showcases a more mature artist that still knows how to keep her fans pleased. But is it as good as past efforts? Well…almost.

The album starts off in the right direction. We get the more melodic and darker tone of Hatfield, one that almost evokes a "Rhianna" tone from Fleetwood Mac mixed with the darker pop moments of bands like Teenage Fanclub or XTC (in regards to the melodic nature). There's a dark allure that fits the lyrics' dismal tone of love gone sour. Just when you think it'll get sweet, melancholy brings it back down, but it's enjoyable when it takes that turn.

I was ready to embrace this album with open arms once the second track, "Shining On", finished but then at track four, "My Baby", it detours slightly by being more straightforward and radio friendly, almost skirting on being Sheryl Crow-ish, but thankfully not enough to actually be that. Also, it seems the not-so-subtle lyrics cripple the song. The album returns to form with "Just Lust," which captures a harsh reality of an attraction in a nice catchy yet down tempo beat. "Now I'm Gone" veers back into the more straightforward territory that "My Baby" does but thankfully without compromising the tone that hooked me in at the first part of the album. But then we get to "Remember November" which is only ho-hum. Maybe its slightly more optimistic and sappy lyrics weigh it down or maybe it's the fact the song doesn't do much to keep my attention. Either way, it feels like one of the weaker tracks on the album. As the album progresses it becomes more background noise than something that keeps you invested and seems to just wash over you.

This may seem very nit picky, but the biggest flaw on this album is with the song "So Alone." The song itself isn't bad, but a small production decision really destroys what could be a good song. There's a distracting percussion noise that really takes you out of the song and seems very out of place. I hate to think that it was a conscious decision on Hatfield's part. I refuse to believe it! It just really bothers me because I really enjoy the song and want to listen to it but can't even get through it now because of that damn noise.

There are a few guests on the album, including The Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler and Nada Surf's Matthew Caws. "This Lonely Love" featuring Butler is the standout track and reminds me more of Hatfield's earlier material while maintaining the more mature sound we hear throughout this album. Though the track feels a bit jarring compared to the more somber tone the first few songs set up, it's a welcome shift since the song works so well. I wish I could say the same for "Such a Beautiful Girl," which features Matthew Caws from the extremely underrated Nada Surf. The song has some beautiful vocals, especially from Mr.Caws, but it just seems like it's missing that extra something. A problem I actually heard on a few songs from Nada Surf's latest release strangely enough.

How To Walk Away is a good effort and better than a few of her more recent releases, but I can't help miss the sound I fell in love with when I heard Juliana Hatfield all those years ago. That's why I loved the album Juliana's Pony-Total System Failure. The fuzzed-out guitars, the catchy hooks, and the fun of rockin' out just made for a better listening experience. As a fan, I know it's unfair to expect an artist to repeat a certain sound, and Juliana Hatfield has not been shy about changing it up from time to time, but I feel Hatfield is at her best in that Become What You Are/Total System Failure element. Still, if you're a fan of Hatfield's work, I recommend you pick this up. It's definitely worth the listen and shows some promise for future releases.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Promotion

The Promotion is a strange little film — not in content but rather the potential of what it could have been. You have some great talent within this film that could have easily pulled this movie off, but it seems to miss the mark. It's likely to divide audiences and have some claiming that others "just don't get the humor." But I get it, and it ain't what it should be.

Doug (played by Sean William Scott) is an assistant manager at Donaldson's Grocery who is hoping for a promotion at a new store that is opening in the area. He is certain he will get the position until Richard (played by John C. Reilly) transfers from a Canadian sister store and decides to go for the same position. Both men find themselves in difficult personal situations that lead them to lows they normally wouldn't resort to just to get the coveted position.

This film strives to emulate the tone of such deadpan and "uncomfortable" comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office. You can see it trying, and it has moments where it almost succeeds, but ultimately it just doesn't hit the mark like those shows do. It really is a tricky thing to pull off. If not done right, you can even lose those who understand and enjoy that type of humor. When I watch Larry David or Ricky Gervais in uncomfortable situations, I do cringe, but I hang on and enjoy every moment of it. But there were a few times I almost wanted to shut this film off because I didn't want to see the consequence of some of the characters' actions. It's that very fine line that you either nail or miss.

Some of the problem might come from Sean William Scott's performance. He's not bad and he's proven himself in the past to be more than Stiffler from the American Pie films, but this film maybe could have been better with someone else in the role, someone a little more adept at comedy. That's not to say Scott doesn't have comedy chops, because he does, I just don't think he was quite right for this role and it adds to the overall feeling of the whole of the film falling a bit short. Another thing that hurts the film is the voiceover Scott gives throughout. It sounds too "read" and seems unnecessary. The movie probably would have been better without it.

Jenna Fischer plays the role of Doug's wife and seems almost wasted in the role. There's not much for her character to do, but it seems like she could have done more. Then there's Lili Taylor who plays Richard's wife. She is a great actress, but she's terribly underused and has a bad Scottish accent in this film. However, Fred Armisen does a great job and is funny as the Donaldson's manager and Gil Bellows as the board executive is pretty dead on (I used to work at a supermarket and have dealt with his type). There's also a decent cameo from Jason Bateman as the retreat host (the retreat is actually one of the funniest parts of the film).

Despite its flaws, there is a line in the movie that is well written and sums up the motivation of the characters in the film: "We're all out here, just looking for food. And sometimes we bump into each other is all." This seems genuine and really speaks to the things we do sometimes despite our better judgment in a competitive world. It's in that line that I finally found some connection to the film and actually cared about the characters. Too bad it was too little too late.

I would have listened to the commentary, but for some reason it didn't seem to work. I tried multiple times but got nothing. It's something I really wanted to listen to in order to get a better feel for what they were trying to achieve and to see what they thought of certain performances, but alas, no go. Outtakes on the Special Features only has one scene and it gets tiresome after the first minute or so. You would think with people like Fred Armisen or John C. Reilly involved they'd have some really good stuff to put on there.

The Promotion is a film you really want to enjoy because it has all the elements a fan of this type of comedy would enjoy with a good cast to back it up, but in the end it just feels a bit disappointing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Comedy Central's TV Funhouse

Robert Smigel is responsible for some of the best comedy on television. He wrote for what I consider to be the other golden age of Saturday Night Live (late 80's/early 90's), wrote great sketches, characters, and bits for The Dana Carvey Show and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and then really made a name for himself with the "TV Funhouse" video shorts that aired on SNL. But there are few who remember the short-lived, underrated, and overlooked Comedy Central television series TV Funhouse. Thankfully, Comedy Central finally wised up and has released it on DVD. Rejoice!

Do I sound a little over excited? You bet. TV Funhouse is somewhat of a forgotten comedy gem that aired for only one season in '00-'01. It's a shame shows like this don't get more seasons but lazy and tremendously deplorable shite like Mind of Mencia get renewed. No justice in the comedy world! TV Funhouse is formatted like a children's show, but for adults (a format that would later be emulated by "Wonder Showzen"). It combines the puppetry from Smigel's work on Late Night and segments done in the style from the SNL "TV Funhouse" shorts.

The Anipals and their adventures straying from the set are what really make the show. Part of the charm and fun is that it's not the best puppet work in the world (those familiar with Triumph the iInsult Comic Dog know what I'm talking about). In fact, they mention in the commentary about firing some puppeteers who were trying to make the puppets move too much like real animals. It really is a small thing that actually adds to the comedy. They also have real animals react with the puppets. One particularly funny scene that comes to mind is a puppet cat giving birth to actual kittens and the unexpected action of one kitten that prompted some very funny improvised dialogue. They discuss in the commentary how working with real animals could be so unpredictable but could sometimes lead to great results (even jokingly giving writing credit to a monkey).

TV Funhouse has a lot to be proud of in its shorts. What's great about them is the attention to detail in making it look and sound so close to the thing they're parodying. Wonderman (done in the style of the old Fleischer Superman cartoons), Policeman (done in classic Sesame Street short fashion), and Christmas with Tingles (old black and white claymation Christmas parody) are just a few great examples.

You also have the infamous "Porn For Kids" segment that only aired once as that title and was later aired as "Porn For Everyone" due to the network making them change it. The segment is just a porno ("Silence of the Gams") cut down to less than 30 seconds since all the indecent stuff is edited out. You mainly get a few lines of dialogue and the credits. It's a very funny idea, but I guess the network felt a little nervous having it associated in any way with kids, even if it was just a title.

Other highlights include "Stedman" (about Oprah's boyfriend, which Smigel almost didn't approve because he felt it was too mean), "Mnemonics - Your Dear, Dear Friend", "The Safety Gang" (which Dino Stamatopoulos originally wrote for Mr.Show but never used it), "Fetal Scooby Doo", "Places to Look For Your Christmas Presents," and the other infamous short, "Jokamel" (Pokemon parody done with Joe Camel).

There's not too much offered on the extras side, but what's there is very enjoyable. It's funny to see how much time and care they took to get a turtle penis reveal to work. That's the kind of dedication you want in comedy. The commentary is a real treat and probably the best special feature on this disc. Creators and writers Robert Smigel, Dino Stamatopoulos, (The Ben Stiller Show, Mr.Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Moral Orel), Andy Breckman (Monk, SNL), and host Doug Dale give a ton of insight on the show. They reveal the problems plaguing a second season and why ultimately they didn't do one, Smigel defends that his dog characters don't have the same Russian immigrant voice (He actually does both Fogey and Triumph back to back to prove his point), they talk about avoiding people they've made fun of (most notably Sally Jessie Raphael), and reveal other entertaining tidbits surrounding the production and end product of the show. It's definitely one of the better commentaries on a television DVD set.

There is a slight problem with this DVD release, though. It is NOT complete. In fact, it's missing one of my favorite animated shorts from TV Funhouse, "A Globetrotter's Christmas". What's funny is it's still mentioned in the credits. I think it may have been left out since it aired on SNL first and Universal might own the rights. Other shorts like "Stedman" and "The Baby, The Immigrant, and The Guy On Mushrooms" were also aired on SNL, but I believe it was after it was aired on TV Funhouse and perhaps that's how they avoided being omitted. Triumph insulting Hootie and the Blowfish in the "Safari Day" episode also seems to be missing. That's a real shame, but it doesn't hurt the set too much.

Fans of Smigel are sure to enjoy this show. Thank Jesus (whatever animal you think he might be. Show reference, settle down) that Comedy Central finally released this hilarious show! Now if only Comedy Central would release Exit 57 on DVD I can go into a blissful comedy nerd coma. Enjoy!

Extras include commentary from the creators and puppets (Chickie, Jason, and Xabu), Outtakes, Behind the Scenes footage, Triumph appearances from The Rob Reiner Roast and The Daily Show and the lost sketch "What Do We Know, Pt.2 with Bob Odenkirk".