For the humor-hungry: comedy sketches on DVD

New on DVD

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

March 04, 2004|By Diane Werts | Diane Werts,NEWSDAY

When you're feeling attention-span-challenged and humor-hungry, sketch comedy DVDs are the perfect remedy. The disc format makes it easy to pick the short parody you seek and click to the exact spot to watch -- then learn what's behind the humor through interviews and commentary. Recent DVD releases showcase not only Comedy Central's current hit Chappelle's Show, but also such enduring perennials as Saturday Night Live, The Kids in the Hall and The Ben Stiller Show.

Chappelle's Show (Comedy Central, 12 episodes on 2 discs, $27 list price) arrives uncensored on shelves today as the latest ticklish example of how sketch comedy likes to push taste boundaries and cultural hot buttons. Stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle doesn't mess around. "I haven't been canceled yet," he says mere minutes into his first episode, "but I think this next piece might be the one to do it." Then he's on location playing a black white supremacist -- the guy is blind and just doesn't know -- in a backwoods bit that's explosive, even setting cable censors back on their heels.

In the optional episode commentary, Chappelle and co-creator Neal Brennan discuss their incendiary adult satire. Aimed straight at PC sensitivities are such first-season bits as "Ask a Black Dude" (with answers from comedy writer Paul Mooney) and "Ask a Gay Dude" (with Mario Cantone). Wreaking more havoc with stereotypes is Dave's version of MTV's The Real World, reversing the usual racial equation by placing one white among crazy black roommates. Not everyone will agree with Dave's comic take on any topic, but it's exhilarating to see someone go for broke on subjects most shows won't even touch.

The Kids in the Hall (A&E Home Video, 20 episodes on four discs, $60; available only online at aande.com and comedy central.com) tackles ideas most people couldn't even imagine. Reaching past pop culture parody, this Canadian gang of five sends up human behavior by raising it to its most absurd level of everyday lunacy. A full disc of extras includes the guys' 40-minute oral history, two best-of skit compilations and 30 minutes of tape from the early days in Toronto club land. If you know these Kids better as Dave Foley of NewsRadio or Mark McKinney of Saturday Night Live, see where the madness began in this classic half-hour, produced by Lorne Michaels.

Saturday Night Live (Lions Gate, single discs) is, of course, Lorne Michaels' best-known creation, and its DVD incarnations multiply. Along with the three-hour 25th anniversary special ($20) come four individual best-of volumes, featuring New York homeboys Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock ($15 each), Mike Myers ($20) and the late Phil Hartman ($20). Murphy, Rock and Myers have hit DVDs in previous compilations, and these new ones contain much of the same material. Hartman's DVD debut includes his tour de force 10-minute audition tape. Finding specific skits with these discs' vague onscreen menus is a challenge.

The Ben Stiller Show (Warner Home Video, 13 shows on 2 discs, $27) is a labor of love from all the participants in Fox's 1992 series, many of whom have gone on to further fame -- performers Janeane Garofalo and Andy Dick, producer Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks), writers Bob Odenkirk and David Cross (Mr. Show). They're all back for giddy group commentary on seven of these episodes.

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