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DVD Review: Laffapalooza! Live From Las Vegas

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I have a real problem with Laffapalooza! Live From Las Vegas; it is way too short. How do you present one dozen comedians in 83 minutes? There’s only one way to do it — fantastic editing — and this fast-moving DVD is a model of that. In addition to the Vegas show, the disk includes an Atlanta Laffapalooza made in ’07. Because each comedian is showcased for less than seven minutes (we see as little as four minutes of some acts), we get the best of their sets.

Stand-up comedy is often topical. That means that when the Vegas show was taped some of the comedians opened their acts with the obligatory new president banter. Since it’s old news, it’s lost its appeal (wow three i-t-s in one sentence!). The viewer wins, though, because of the tight editing. There is so much great material squeezed into 83 minutes, that the little Barack Obama material there is hardly gets notice.

Tracy Morgan hosts the Las Vegas show, starting with his take on the new president (“Gas is going down to 79 cents a gallon”). He continues with observations on the economy, and discusses superheroes and how certain superheroes just couldn’t be black (specifically The Hulk) before he turns to his hosting duties.

First up is Sheryl Underwood, who professes to be a Republican and does some cute stuff about John McCain and Sarah Palin. Best are her observations on Hillary Clinton. At the end of her routine, she is carried offstage by a Roman centurion (aka eye candy) from Caesar’s Palace.

Since comedy is not sexist (ahem), the rest of the performers (men) were escorted onstage by two beautiful Bally’s showgirls. The first of these was Earthquake who riffed on Obama, OJ, and — his best — Chicago in the winter. Earthquake is a master of similes that serve to make his material even more comic.

Corey Holcomb entertained with Neanderthal views on relationships, domestic abuse, and marriage (“Marriage takes all the honesty out of relationships”). If you are inclined towards political correctness, you would label Holcomb’s material “sexist.” Fortunately, political correctness has no place in comedy, and we can label Holcomb’s stuff “hilarious.” At one point he states, “I said some mean things that were necessary tonight,” and explains that comedy is a method of bringing truth to the forefront. Once he has enlightened the audience, he continues in the same vein as he started.

Usually, I don’t have a favorite when I see a comedy show featuring a variety of performers. There may be one or two (or three or four) that I don’t enjoy, but editing equalizes everything, giving the viewer the best of what was presented. It’s difficult to make comparisons because of the differences in style, material, and delivery. However, one performer in Laffapalooza! Live from Las Vegas stands out from the rest — Mark Curry. You see, Curry is running for president. When he wins (and he should win) he is going to visit death row; those who have killed more than two people are eligible for war. “To save money we’re going to give you the same weapon you killed people with. You killed two people with this knife? Good luck to you… just do what you do best.” If you plead insanity—a dog told you to kill—Curry hears “a dog barking in the parking lot, and he wants you to go to Iraq. You his lawyer? Good, represent him in Iraq.” Gangbangers doing drive-bys? “We're gonna put you in the same car, fix the transmission, and send you down Baghdad Avenue.” He also has plans for crack addicts and pederasts. Curry has some uproarious gays-in-the-military thoughts, and very wise (if you know where I’m coming from) comments about the benefits of dating older women.

The reliably funny Lavell Crawford is the final performer in the Vegas show. His talent is in mining childhood events; in this show he compares and contrasts how white kids and black kids interact with their parents. With his mother in the audience, he tells what happened when they moved from the ‘hood to the ‘burbs, and makes us understand how one child behaves in his home may not work for another. Very entertaining.

The bonus on Laffapalooza! Live from Las Vegas is highlights of Atlanta Laffapalooza ’07. Hosted by Anthony Anderson, it includes five other comedians. First up is Rickey Smiley who explains what section eight housing is all about and how kids from different cultures have different relationships with their grandmothers (“We don’t go to grandmother’s house, we get dropped off over there”). His best bit is on drive-through funeral homes.

Pat Brown, the lone female in the Atlanta show, does five funny minutes on being single in Atlanta, cell phones (with a Bluetooth story that may be a little too familiar to some of us), and a speaker at Coretta King’s funeral. Following Brown, Anthony Anderson brings Emmanuel Lewis up from the audience for a dance challenge.

Kevin Hart covers muscle-builders, gyms, fights, working out, and fears about his 18-month-old daughter. He hits his stride when he talks about two of his phobias, gnats and dolphins (particularly a racist dolphin that tried to kill him in a dolphin tank). Hart had me laughing out loud when he went into some encounters he’s had with large gnats.

Corey Miller shows us the differences between energetic dances of the past and lazy dances that are currently popular. He is at his funniest when he does an ad for GEICO starring a Jamaican gecko. His four minutes ended far too soon. We also get an exceptionally short sample of Maronzio Vance who tells of an amusing road rage incident, and how pride sometimes works against him. Talent wrapped up the show by doing something I thought was impossible, being funny about 9/11. His secret? The jokes were not about terrorists and their victims or their politics, but about the people of New York not shutting down. Another bit "ripped from the headlines," his take on cultural differences in reacting to “the sniper” was excellent.

It would have been great to see longer performances by the comics in these two shows, but most of them appear on other DVDs, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get more of a good thing. Laffapalooza! Live from Las Vegas could be rated “PG,” the language and routines are that tame. It’s refreshing to see people who are funny unaided by a crutch of profanity.

Bottom Line: Would I buy Laffapalooza! Live From Las Vegas? Yes. It would be a great DVD to share with guests over snacks and “beverages.”

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