Comedian Dan Levy’s CD/DVD combo Congrats on Your Success! is set to be released on August 16 by Comedy Central. The DVD is made up of his special from Comedy Central Presents, five web videos, and seven episodes of his “Laugh Track Mashups.” The CD is made up of 15 live tracks recorded at the Comedy Works in Denver in September of 2010 much of which is the expanded, less TV-friendly version of the Comedy Central set, and it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing it’s here.
Whoever called the shot knew what he was doing. Levy’s TV shot is professional and competent enough—he gets his laughs, and he gets his obligatory applause, but he never seems truly comfortable in front of the cameras. On the other hand, in the Denver set he is in full control; he sounds like the comic who was named “Comedian of the Year” for 2011 at the Young Hollywood Awards.
The web videos are more or less sophomoric skits light on acting chops and, unfortunately, laughs. The two best pieces are “Stunt Man” where a nerdy Levy gets lessons on how to do a number of different stunts and ends up losing his glasses in a foam pit, and “Drunks vs. Highs,” a reality show satire in which Levy emcees a series of contests between (truth in advertising) a drunk guy and, you guessed it, a happy high guy.
The scripted skits are less successful. “Blimp Prom” sets up as some scattered scenes from a high school horror movie that ran out of finances. “Ralphie and Me” has Levy playing a young professional with a pet dinosaur. The best of the scripted pieces is “At Your Service,” a satiric promo for a TV show that features Levy as a British butler for a rich African American family. Some, like “He Said, She Said” which features a date with a babe who sounds just like Levy when she speaks, are developed from his stand-up act. It wouldn’t have been a bad idea with some better acting.
The CD set, on the other hand, is a winner. He opens with “My Terrible Cell Phone,” a routine he uses on the TV show, but here it has a lively electricity that the TV performance never quite equals, and it’s not merely because on the CD he gets to bash the actual cell phone company. This is a comic in control. While the whole set is well done, standouts include his riff on a friend’s pick-up routine, “My Friend’s Dick Pix,” some thoughts on amateur porn in “You Porn,” and the two tracks that end the set, “My Roommate Ate My Pot Cookies” and “The Other Dan Levy.”
There is a cliché about comedy and delicacy. Material that works one night doesn’t work the next. The audience, the comedian, the venue: who knows why. It’s not that Levy’s jokes bombed on TV. The audience laughed. They were appreciative, but there was something missing. At least for this listener, whatever that was, it wasn’t missing in Denver.