Comedy DVD roundup

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My Comedy Hero: Stephen K Amos on Richard Pryor

The live stand-up DVD market gets more crowded with each passing Christmas. Brian Donaldson picks out those making their debuts this year

They might not quite be the small screen equivalent of The Broons or Oor Wullie annuals, but live DVDs from Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand are close to becoming a festive staple. Indeed, no Christmas morning seems complete nowadays without 75-odd minutes of stand-up (plus snazzy extras) being unwrapped. And with such a demand swelling each year, it’s good to see some comics unleashing their first DVDs upon us.

There’s something faintly nostalgic about Johnny Vegas: Live at the Benidorm Palace ●●● It’s over 12 years since Michael Pennington first donned the flared jeans and got his potter’s wheel out for an Edinburgh Fringe audience and to see him reproducing that act for some Brits abroad is a bittersweet experience. Reaction to his tragi-comic set has changed little, though, with those he chooses to ‘involve’ in the show either displaying panic in the eyes or seizing the moment with vigour. The Vegas persona has never exactly been slick, a polar opposite to the professional approach displayed by his fellow north-west comic in Jason Manford Live at the Manchester Apollo ●●●● While you can safely position Manford beside his pal Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre in stand-up comedy’s version of easy listening, his natural bonhomie and genial wit keeps him from ever being half as annoying. Material about his family and childhood dominates here and while he is keen to mop up his home crowd’s affection, Manford is too savvy and inclusive to ever make it feel alienating.

In direct contrast is Des Bishop: Desfunctional ●● Bishop is a US comic who has settled in Ireland and has swathed himself in his surroundings. This leads to a 15-minute finale which will mean little to anyone outside the Emerald Isle and could just as well have been delivered in Greek. The show prior to that contains all-too familiar diatribes about male intimacy. Warm and cuddly are the bywords for Stephen K Amos: Find the Funny ●●● Amos is another comic in the populist Manford vein and though some of his output is a little hack, charm wins the day. There’s also a lot of charm abounding in Rhod Gilbert and the Award-Winning Mince Pie ●●●● albeit of the shouty Welsh variety, as the ‘Llanbobl’ comic rails against the daftness of the real world, encapsulated by one late-night adventure at Knutsford services.

Milton Jones: Live Universe Tour ●● shows that the former Perrier Best Newcomer should probably have stuck to keeping his quasi-surrealist worldview on the radio. Over an hour of relentless bad punning is either your bag or it isn’t. The only obstacle to overcome with Andy Parsons: Britain’s Got Idiots Live ●●●● is the Mock The Week star’s uniquely pitched vocal delivery, but once you attune yourself to that, his socially-aware material is a thorough delight. However, all of the above are put in the shade by Louis CK: Chewed Up ●●●●● Yes, folks, if you are to buy just one live stand-up DVD in 2009, this should be it. Ricky Gervais may for once be right when he claims his new buddy to be the best American stand-up in the business and having plied his trade for over 20 years, it’s a genuine treat to see someone at the very top of his game

All DVDs are out now.

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