Comedian appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Shot on consumer-grade video cameras, Comedian won’t win any prizes for stellar visual quality. However, given the source material, I thought the transfer looked fine.
Sharpness varied somewhat but generally remained solid. The image never became particularly crisp and detailed, but it also rarely displayed notable problems related to softness. The picture took on a reasonably accurate but not razor-sharp look that matched what I’d expect for this kind of project. Occasional jagged edges cropped up, but those remained pretty minor for video material, and I saw no issues with shimmer or edge enhancement. Source flaws popped up frequently in the form of video artifacts. Those elements made the picture look fairly grainy, especially in low-light situations. Otherwise the movie demonstrated no issues related to source defects.
Even with the best film equipment, the world of Comedian’s nightclubs wouldn’t present brilliant hues. With everything shot on video, the colors looked even less vivid. The tones appeared fairly lackluster and drab throughout the flick. They weren’t really bad, but they didn’t demonstrate much life or vivacity. Blacks came across as somewhat brownish and faded, while shadow detail varied. The movie featured some scenes with very little light, and those looked quite opaque. Generally these situations appeared acceptably distinct, however. Objectively, Comedian looked pretty bad, but I felt that since it represented the source material accurately, it merited a “C” for picture.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Comedian worked a little better than the image, but it didn’t present anything spectacular either. For the most part, the soundfield remained monaural. Music showed good stereo imaging, and the songs also spread nicely to the rear at times. Otherwise, the track featured a heavy center bias. On a few occasions, the side channels opened up to give us decent ambience, but those instances happened infrequently.
As one might expect from a documentary presentation, audio quality varied, but the piece usually sounded fine. Speech suffered from the most concerns. At times I found it tough to make out what participants said, but that seemed inevitable given the mix of circumstances in which they were filmed. In general, dialogue appeared acceptably clear and intelligible. Effects played a major role and lacked much presence, but they remained fairly natural and distinct.
The only element not recorded “on the fly”, music fared very nicely. The melange of songs appeared quite robust and lively, as the tunes presented good clarity and solid low-end response. Without the high quality of the music, I’d have needed to drop my score considerably, but the songs sounded so good that I felt Comedian earned a “B-“ for audio.
Packed with a lot of extras, Comedian includes some good materials. It features two separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Christian Charles and producer Gary Streiner. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific track. The pair provide a reasonably solid examination of the project. They discuss some of the technical concerns related to the use of video cameras but mostly fill in some gaps in regard to on-screen information. For example, they mention “cheats” that left out some parts of scenes and also go over snippets they decided not to include in the movie. They let us know more about the reality behind the situations and flesh out the flick to a degree. They rely on too much praise for the film and its participants, unfortunately, which makes the commentary drag at times, but the pair generally give us a nice glimpse behind the scenes of Comedian.
Less informative but more entertaining, the second commentary features comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn, both of whom also chat together for their running, screen-specific discussion. At times, the guys add some insight. They discuss theories about comedy and how they work out material, and it’s great to get the scoop behind particular parts of Comedian; to hear Seinfeld tell his feelings during a scene when he bombs is quite interesting.
However, the commentary lacks a great deal of concrete information, as it usually just presents the pair as the gab and crack on the movie and each other. They don’t fire on all comedic cylinders, but they offer more than enough funny remarks to make this an amusing track. Heck, I don’t even mind the fact they ate throughout the whole film; that normally would seem annoying, but here it adds to the piece’s casual charm. I expected a lot from this commentary and worried it’d disappoint me, but instead I definitely enjoyed the Seinfeld/Quinn track.
Next we get a collection of five deleted scenes. These run between 68 seconds and four minutes, 14 seconds for a total of 14 minutes, 22 seconds of footage. The first four focus on Seinfeld, while the last one shows Orny Adams as he moves to LA. All of the Seinfeld clips are good, as we see his worries before gig, his struggles with material, and other elements. The Adams bit seems less compelling. Lots of time deleted scenes consist of crap, but not here, as the clips merit a screening.
One can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Charles and Streiner. They provide a little background on the snippets and also relate why the scenes didn’t make the cut. Their remarks prove to be informative and useful.
In the Advertising domain, we get a bunch of features. We find the movie’s creative trailer - presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround audio – plus three similarly amusing TV spots and a radio ad that reworks the trailer. Interestingly, the radio ad uses Seinfeld as a voice and Colin Quinn as an announcer, whereas neither appears in the trailer itself.
Up next we get a stillframe image of the film’s theatrical one-sheet plus a frame that shows eight wild posters; those offer the same photo as the one-sheet but present different text. Lastly, “Advertising” finishes with a thumbnailed collection of 14 action figures. These depict people like Adams, Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Robert Klein and others from the movie. The final still shows a vending machine that purports to sell the toys. They offer a funny addition to the set.
After this come two Jiminy Glick Interviews. We find a segment with Seinfeld (seven minutes, eight seconds) and one with Adams (six minutes, 37 seconds), both of whom went on the show to promote the film. Both clips are simply hilarious and offer a great deal of fun.
For more TV material, we go to the Letterman appearances department. This includes both Adams’ December 13, 2000 gig (five minutes, 42 seconds) and Seinfeld’s March 12, 2001 stint (six minutes, 58 seconds). While we see parts of them during the movie, it’s nice to find them in their entirety here. For the record, Adams’ set is actually pretty funny; once we separate him from his real personality, the guy shows some talent.
Speaking of Adams, next we find a two-minute and 48-second featurette called Where Is Orny Now? The piece quickly updates Adams’ career since the end of the movie shoot. It turns out he’s not doing a whole lot, a fact supported by his website (www.ornyadams.com).
Finally, Anatomy of a Joke splits into three subdomains: “Jerry’s Notes”, “Orny’s Notes”, and “Colin’s Notes”. Each of these offers one screen apiece with text prepared by the comic in question. While this sounds like a cool bit of insight, it doesn’t work very well, largely because it can be tough to make out the writing. Between his handwriting and the size of the screen, Seinfeld’s text was virtually illegible, and I also found it tough to read Adams’ computer-printed notes because they were too small. Only Quinn’s broad penmanship appeared mainly decodable.
Comedian didn’t attract much attention during its limited theatrical release, but hopefully the movie will get new life on DVD. The film offers a fun and lively look behind the scenes at the lives of two stand-up comics, and despite some poor pacing at times, it remains generally provocative and fascinating. The DVD presents picture and sound that seem mediocre, but they represent the source material well. It also comes with a very nice roster of informative and entertaining extras that strongly enhance the value of this package. Stand-up fans should definitely give Comedian a look.