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John Moffitt
Ricky Gervais
Writing Credits:
Ricky Gervais

Taped live before a sold-out audience at the WaMu Theater at New York City's Madison Square Garden, Ricky Gervais - Out of England: The Stand-Up Special is a high-spirited hour of offbeat observations and understated humor from the actor/comedian/writer/director. The show includes Gervais' unique takes on such disparate (and often politically incorrect) issues as fund-raising, autism, fame, nursery rhymes, Nazis, obesity ... and his penis size.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 72 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 3/31/09

• “A Conversation with Ricky Gervais” Featurette


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Ricky Gervais: Out Of England (The Stand-Up Special) (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 24, 2009)

Though best known for his British TV series The Office and Extras, Ricky Gervais takes on live stand-up comedy via Out of England. This HBO special documents Gervais’s run at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in July 2008.

Gervais hits on a mix of subjects through his 70-minute performance. Gervais chats about his charitable work and kids with disabilities, fat people, his anatomy and a medical exam, AIDS, sharks and Nazis, various wars and heroes, children’s fables and aspects of his younger life, the Internet, and animal facts.

If you’ve seen his TV series, you’ll know the self-aggrandizing, egotistical personality Gervais presents here. Whether you enjoy England will largely depend on your tolerance for that persona. Gervais’s arrogant character leads him to a lot of decidedly non-PC material, a factor that further makes the show an iffy prospect for those with delicate sensitivities.

Fans of Gervais’s shtick should enjoy England - or at least parts of it. Gervais tends to do best when he sticks to social commentary and keeps things on a small level. His funniest moments come from those that take topics and twist them in a quirky little way. Gervais can find oddness in the social aspects of different circumstances; when he explores these, he creates laughs.

However, when he takes on bigger topics or those with a greater potential to offend, Gervais walks on less stable ground. I don’t mind the un-PC nature of the content, but too much of it seems gratuitously offensive. At his best, Gervais can bring great humor to potentially touchy issues; for an example, find his “Red Nose Day” video on Youtube.

Unfortunately, this side of things just doesn’t usually work in England. I like his Rosa Parks bit, and a couple others zing, but some go on too long – like his attacks on the obese – and others just don’t produce enough cleverness to compensate for their potential ugliness.

This makes England a spotty show, but then again, virtually all hour-plus stand-up shows come with plenty of ups and downs; it’s very tough to find a comedian who produces consistent laughs over such a long period. At least England gets most of its clunkers out of the way early and improves as it progresses.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C-/ Bonus D+

Ricky Gervais: Out of England appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions.

Sharpness generally seemed satisfactory. Sometimes the wider shots of Gervais appeared a little ill defined and weren’t as distinctive as I’d like. Nonetheless, the program mostly came across as accurate and concise. I saw no edge enhancement, but I noticed mild instances of jaggies and shimmering; at times, the show looked a little blocky. Source flaws were absent, as the presentation suffered from no artifacts, video noise or other issues.

Given the basic setting, colors stayed simplistic but solid. Gervais wore all black, so the colored backdrop dominated the palette. The hues looked fine but didn’t have much to do. Blacks also appeared deep and firm, and the occasional low-light shot seemed clear and appropriately visible. There wasn’t a whole lot to the visual presentation of England, but the DVD replicated the concert fairly well.

I felt disappointed by the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of England, mostly due to iffy reproduction of Gervais’s speech. His lines showed a lot of reverb and sounded tinny and sibilant. Though the dialogue was perfectly intelligible, the echo and the heavy level of treble made this side of things tougher to take than usual. Except for minor opening and closing bits, we got no music, and no effects appeared here; Gervais’s speech and audience laughter created the vast majority of the track.

Not surprisingly, the mix presented a very modest soundfield. Except for some spread that came from the unnatural echo, Gervais’s monologue emanated from the front center channel, so that speaker dominated the proceedings. Otherwise, we got audience laughter and applause from the front sides and – to a lesser degree – surrounds. And that was it! This was a serviceable track that lost points due to the problematic reproduction of speech.

Only one extra shows up here: A Conversation with Ricky Gervais. This piece runs 11 minutes, three seconds and features Gervais as he discusses why he chose to do a stand-up tour, the effect being in America has on his work, thoughts on comedy and his audience, taboos and some of the show’s subjects, influences and his approach to jokes. “Conversation” feels pretty promotional, as it comes packed with clips from the show. Still, Gervais gives us some interesting thoughts about his work, so this becomes a decent piece.

In Out of England, Ricky Gervais scores a decent series of laughs. The show has definite ups and downs – particularly in its first third – but it comes with a reasonable number of funny bits and amuses much of the time. The DVD provides acceptable picture quality, iffy audio and only one extra. England is worth a rent for Gervais fans, but I don’t know if it merits a purchase.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4285 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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