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DVD Review: The Awkward Comedy Show

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Having seen The Awkward Comedy Show on Comedy Central, I eagerly anticipated the release of the DVD. Although I would be familiar with most of the material, I expected that it would be more enjoyable because there would be no censoring and more material presented. Was I right? Absolutely! The DVD exceeded my expectations.

It begins with an animation detailing the birth of stand-up comedy, which—of course—happened centuries ago in Africa. The animation is nicely rendered and amusing, a good set-up for the show to come. Marina Franklin performs and serves as host of a show featuring The Awkward Kings, “four ground-breaking African-American comedians.” The Awkward Kings are Baron Vaughn, Eric Andre, Hannibal Buress, and Victor Varnado.

When I first saw the edited-for-TV version of this show, I wondered about the “awkward” part. None of the comics looked embarrassed; they all appeared comfortable and gave confident performances. The backstage scenes were no different. These are five people doing what they do very well. Each of The Awkward Kings does reflect (accompanied by animation) on a somewhat-to-very awkward situation from his past.

While viewing the DVD, I began to realize whence the “awkward” appellation. While much of their material goes the route of standard stand-up topics, there are areas that are “different,” let’s say nerdier or geekier. They riff on subjects that most comics don’t touch—not because they are not funny, but because they aren’t cool. These four comedians take uncool situations and make them very funny. More than funny. Why didn’t I catch that the first time I watched? Because I, too, am nerdy and geeky (yes, both), and didn’t find them to be weird at all. (What was it Einstein said about us all being weird? Oh, right. He didn’t say anything about that.)

In her opening routine, Marina Franklin riffs on the gentrification of Harlem, explains why ugly girls are better fighters (they’re not afraid of getting their faces messed up, they already are), and demonstrates her white voice. This is an expansion of what was shown on Comedy Central. Later she does a funny bit on trying to be “sassy,” and how it just didn’t work for her because she’s not “black enough.”

Baron Vaughn related a story about his gay roommate, who felt that gays were even more oppressed than blacks. (“What’s the difference between being black and being gay? You don’t have to tell your parents you’re black.”) He also admits that he is bi-racial; his mother was black, and his father was absent. He talks about traveling, and going to the south a lot lately “which is good because I’ve been meaning to run more.” He also does a very funny piece that involves pterodactyl wings, Kool-Aid, and crack, but I’m not giving that away.

When Eric Andre performed his bit on Colonial Williamsburg, I laughed harder than I did the first time. I found that with every comedian I laughed at the jokes I was hearing again just as heartily as the new material, and I would often laugh out loud, pause and think further on what I just heard, and laugh out loud again. Eric Andre’s act included hilarious stuff dissecting movies about weed vs. movies about crystal meth, tattoos, and a lunch-lady routine that was not just funny, but extremely bizarre. The bonus features include a joke he does about hurricanes that is not to be missed!

One comic, Hannibal Buress, comes across as so laid back and low key that his delivery underscores the humor in his routine. It’s almost as if the viewer must pause and think, “Did that man just say that? A Flaming Dr. Pepper is his favorite drink, and his explanation of the process behind its invention is entertaining, but only a truly nerdy individual could make the font known as “courier new” laugh-provoking.  He’s obviously been “tribulatin’.”

The last act of the program, self-deprecating comic Victor Varnado, finds humor in some of the strangest corners of society. He mines it in stories about how different the homeless in New York City are from those in other places. He tells of a religious tract he received from a stranger on the street that was supposed to be a letter from God, and develops it into a three-letter series. There is also an expanded version of his riff on a female body-builder he once met; it's a little bit raunchy, a whole lot funny.

Bonus DVD features include an audio commentary, “backstage with the comedians,” “bonus interviews,” “bonus jokes,” and a trailer. Whatever you do, don’t skip the bonus jokes, they are all excellent.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent The Awkward Comedy Show? Absolutely. By offering material that is not a rehash of what viewers will find elsewhere, these comics have produced the best comedy DVD I have seen in the past several years.

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