While she is better known as an actress nowadays, Janeane Garofalo has been doing stand up for decades now. She won the title of being the “Funniest Person in Rhode Island,” after entering into a talent contest by Showtime and went on to continue doing stand up during the 80s but never really hit the big time until the 90s (a fact she mentions during the concert). In 1992, she was added to a ground-breaking new show called The Ben Stiller Show where she joined a talented cast that included Ben Stiller, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, and Andy Dick. Although that show didn’t last long, it did provide higher visibility to her and she was subsequently hired by Saturday Night Live for the 1994-95 season. Her experience at SNL wasn’t a positive one for her, she followed that up with the role of Paula on The Larry Sanders Show, which netted her her two Emmy Award nominations in 1996 and 1997.
Since then, she has always been in demand with guest roles on shows such as Seinfeld, Mad About You, West Wing, News Radio, and most recently as Janis Gold on 24. She’s also starred in a ton of movies like Reality Bites, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Cop Land, and lots more. Garofalo is also a well known liberal activist and her battles with Bill O’Reilly are well known. She also was a co-host on Air America for a program called The Majority Report along with Sam Sedar . She has so much going on I think a lot of people forgot she was a stand up comedian as well. That can now be rectified as her new comedy special, “If You Will,” has now been released. Let’s take a look at it…
If You Will was filmed last May at Seattle’s famed Moore Theater to a sold out crowd that evidently enjoyed this gig more than I did. I think Garofalo is a fine comedienne and I know she can be funny but this performance just didn’t work for me. It had nothing to do with her delivery or her politics but the problem I had was with her material. The topics that she talked about were good choices, but they weren’t mined for the comedic value as much as they could have been. Whether she was discussing Homeland Security, texting, personal hygiene, among others, all of those have been done before and done better.
I understand every comic has to follow their own comic voice but it seemed to me that Garofalo has become so insular that her personalized brand of comedy mainly works for her and a contingency of her fans. To illustrate that point, there is a long section of this sixty-five minute show that is solely devoted to Natalie Portman, and how small and hygienic she is. Not only is this whole bit bizarre and oddly insulting/flattering to Ms. Portman, but it really has nothing to do with anything other than to alienate a good portion of the audience who weren’t sure where it was all going.
Garofalo did have some funny parts in this as well but most of the time I wasn’t laughing or even cracking a smile which was too bad as I was looking forward to seeing this as I know she can be funny. I think if she got together with some good writers, she could come up with a great show that would be a far more successful one than this one. Garolfalo is obviously talented but she needs to bring in some outside help to help her craft a show that would be more popular with a mainstream audience. Of course, that depends if she even wants a more mainstream audience. I suspect, that she is happy with the audience she has as long as she get to continue to do things her way which is understandable. All in all, this show unfortunately did not meet my expectations despite her talents.
The big surprise for me in reviewing this disc was the picture quality of this show. This 1080i recording is presented in 1.78:1 and it’s surprisingly sharp. There is fine detail shown which compliments the theater and also provided me with the opportunity to try to determine all of Garofalo’s tattoos. Flesh tones are very nice and there are nice deep blacks as well. Since this was all filmed in this one location there isn’t a lot of variety but it’s a nice picture and the show looks a lot better than the extras that were filmed outside of the theater in an improvisational manner.
It’s always hard to review these kind of discs as they are dialogue driven and there isn’t much use for all of the surround channels. In this case, the DTS-HD 5.1 sound for this was clear and the dialogue came through great, but being a stand up presentation, it was very light on the use of surround channels and non-existent on the LFE. I did hear the crowd applauding and laughing through the satellite speakers so it was used but sparingly. The sound was good for what it was and I am ok with that.
The only special features on this disc are two small sketches performed outside of the show. The first one is called “Pets” and it’s a cute humorous look at the consequences of accepting gifts from fans. The other sketch is about Representative Richard Martin, a republican who espouses stereotypical republican sound bites as he is interviewed by Garofalo. Both sketches have funny bits to them and I think the first one was the best. I got more enjoyment out of these sketches than I did out of the stand up show but more extras would have been better. Plus the video quality of these sketches isn’t in high definition and the quality wasn’t that good especially compared to the show itself.
This is not Janeane Garofalo at her best but it does have some funny moments and the sketches in the special features are pretty good. The video quality is very good and the audio is pretty good too. If you are a fan of Garofalo, then you will probably enjoy this but I was expecting more from her and I hope she gets a writing partner to help her bring her talent more to the forefront in a more mainstream manner.
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