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Ricky Gervais: Out of England: The Stand-up Special (2008)

HBO Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/31/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/15/2009

In my review for Ricky Gervais' film Ghost Town, I wrote about how I had heard so much about this man, but didn't really have an opinion on him. I've never seen The Office (neither Gervais' original UK version or the American version, but it's on my list of things to do), I'd never seen him do stand-up, and when I had seen him, as in Night at the Museum, he hadn't impressed me. But, after he impressed me with Ghost Town, I've been on the lookout for the star. I loved his appearance at The Golden Globes and I even enjoyed his work with Elmo to promote his visit to Sesame Street. So, when I got word of Ricky Gervais: Out of England: The Stand-Up Special hitting DVD, I was very excited.

Recorded Live at The WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the show was part of a small tour which Gervais did in the United States. Although billed as stand-up (and I guess, technically it is), Gervais is more of a storyteller, as he relates funny anecdotes about his life. In the interview included on this DVD, he states that he enjoys playing an obnoxious boor on-stage and we get a lot of that, as Gervais loves to talk about himself here. He discusses his work with charities, his views on nursery rhymes and fables, his addiction to The Discovery Channel, and how and why people get fat. He isn't above using props, as he produces a post-card which gives safe-sex tips, and proceeds to read it aloud. Taking many breaks to drink from a huge can of Foster's, Gervais is very animated and prowls the stage in front of a giant set of lights which spell out the word "Ricky".

The problem is that most of this isn't very funny. Gervais has proven himself in the past to be very clever and quick-witted, but most everything here is aimed at the lowest common denominator. While his use of profanity didn't bother me in the least, I was surprised by the fact that he often went for "shocking" material. He mocks cancer patients and the obese, and then does the very long bit with the safe-sex postcard which is all linked back to a series of jokes about AIDS. Frankly, all of this seems beneath him. Also, at times, his delivery left much to be desired. The long-drawn out piece about his penis has me reaching for the fast-forward button.

The truly sad thing is that there are some funny moments here. As with many comics, when Gervais settles down and isn't trying too hard to be funny, clever lines and jokes actually make their way into the show. For example, he ends the show with a series of jokes about animal facts. Most of this is pedestrian stuff, but when he questions the syntax about one of the facts, we get a glimpse of the kind of sharp-witted British humor which I had expected from this show. In other cases, he simply doesn't go far enough. He tells a story about a teenaged boy in a bathroom stall and when he delivered the punch-line, I kept waiting for what I thought was the logical next line, but it never came.

I hope that I'm not implying that Gervais bombed here, because he didn't. I had simply expected this to be much funnier. (Maybe I shouldn't have watched this back-to-back with Jim Gaffigan: King Baby.) Gervais is well-known as a writer and an actor, so maybe stand-up simply isn't his thing. Or, maybe he should stop trying to be a stand-up and simply tell funny stories. When he was simply Ricky and not a character, the show truly became something special.

Ricky Gervais: Out of England: The Stand-Up Special doesn't wear any underwear on DVD courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The image implies that the show was shot on HD. Still, there is some artifacting here, and some mild pixellating. Also, jagged lines are visible around Gervais shoulders. The colors are good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The DVD features a Dolby 2.0 audio track. Gervais' voice is always clear and audible and he's never overwhelmed by the sound of the audience. Still, given his accent, I would have loved subtitles.

The Ricky Gervais: Out of England: The Stand-Up Special DVD contains one extra. "A Conversation with Ricky Gervais" (11 minutes) is an interview with the actor. He talks about the tour and how performing in America effected his work. He discusses his approach to comedy and how he tackles certain topics, especially taboo ones. Gervais also talks about the comics who influenced him.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long