Comedy is a tough art, as what may bring one man to laughter is likely to bring another to throw produce. You can't please them all, in cinema, or on stage. My living room just happens to be one of the "tough rooms," where eliciting giggles is a challenge. I don't mind a good comic movie (emphasis on good), but aside from Dennis Leary and the late George Carlin, I'm very reluctant to catch a standup special on Comedy Central.
Jeff Dunham? Pass. Dane Cook? Are you kidding? Sarah Silverman? Best in small doses, small as in less than a minute.
Artie Lange? For me, that's a tough one, as until the 'Jack and Coke' release, I hadn't listened to any of his stand up, or tuned in during his time on the Howard Stern Radio Show. In my eyes, he's just the lovable big mouthed fat oaf from 'Beer League,' and a small pile of bit roles in comedy films. Stern fans and lovers of raunchy stand up will be more familiar with the crass lug, perhaps more famous for his recent substance abuse issues than for anything else.
His new program, 'Jack and Coke' (a fitting title for a Lange special if ever there were one), was released on compact disc in November of 2009, with a DVD and Blu-ray release of the program just now coming out. Filmed live at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City in May of 2009, Lange engages his crowd for an hour and a half's worth of raunch and anecdotes.
'Jack and Coke' seems like a bit of a rehash, a greatest hits, if you would, this coming from a guy who has limited Lange exposure. The strange sense of deja vu experienced listening to this special is unavoidable, as Lange pieces together some of his funnier bits into one special, with some uninspired segues between.
Nothing is sacred, a standard for Lange's brand of humor. He takes on a series of funny (and some not too funny) riffs, bashing anything and everything he can, including 'Brokeback Mountain,' Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson (whoops!), meth, racial stereotypes, drug prevention (and the hypocrisies within), the Oscars, Tom Cruise's sexuality, Mike Tyson, AIDS on 'Sesame Street,' Bob Uecker anecdotes, and so on.
If that list seems a bit mish-mashed, it is. Some are already horribly outdated, or concerning topics that are several years old and just not funny or worthy of airtime. Lange even outdates himself, talking about Alex Rodriguez's post season struggles (funnily enough, every single release of this program has been released after he was made a postseason hero). This special, while funny at times, is a bit too stale for its own good. Prolonged audience shots show a general disinterest on a few occasions, too. I may not be amazingly open to stand up comedy specials, but that doesn't mean I don't know good and bad when I see it. 'Jack and Coke' is the culmination of Lange's career up to this point, and it's more a celebration of his struggles (through his self-effacing humor) than anything else.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Artie Lange: Jack and Coke' is presented on a BD25 single layer disc, reported to be Region All (A,B,C). There are no pre-menu trailers, just a few company logos. The menu has no set up or chapter selection tabs, just a play button and a tab for special features.
Presented with a 1080i AVC MPEG-4 (1.78:1), 'Jack and Coke' looks pretty clean. Colors stay natural, including the growing sweat stains (and other stains) on Lange's attire. Detail level is average, as the picture has incredibly limited depth, seeing as it is recorded in a comedy club. I could barely make out the stubble on Lange's chubby mug. There's some hideous grain and noise in the intro section, but once the program starts, grain is non-apparent, and noise is kept to a minimum. The zipper on Lange's jacket aliases constantly, while the lines on the bulb of his mic continually swirl and blur. Shots of the audience have a red tint due to the lighting, and a bit more noise. The funniest thing to me about the video is how non-ideal the situation is. Lange stands in front of a wall that has a logo full of vertical lines, while an audience member who is front and center, possibly the most visible member, is wearing a striped shirt, and both elements are constantly aliasing.
There are no audio options for 'Artie Lange: Jack and Coke,' so there's no need for even a setup tab. The only route available is a Linear PCM Stereo track, but it's certainly not a bad one. The opening and closing segments include a tribute song to Lange that is very heavy in bass, though there is no other bass in this program. Dialogue from Lange comes through loud and clear, while noises from the audience often blend into an indistinguishable noise. Thankfully, the audience never overpowers Lange, so the program itself is an easy listen. There was some high pitched wails and moans in the background, not from the audience, that are easily noticeable in any spot between "segments." A nice track, though the wailing did get to me after a while.
The supplement package for 'Jack and Coke' is playable as individual extras, or through a play all option.
Funny enough, at press time, the Blu-ray of 'Artie Lange: Jack and Coke' is priced lower than the DVD edition of the show. The Blu-ray release has nice video, somewhat annoying audio, and a small pile of extras. So, is it worth a purchase? For non-Lange fans, probably not. Comedy isn't universal, and one man's pleasure is another man's pain.