Written and directed by Victor Varnado and set to the music of cutting-edge hip-hop artist Farbeon, THE AWKWARD COMEDY SHOW showcases the talents of four groundbreaking African-American comedians. Riffing on topics ranging from Shakespeare to science fiction, THE AWKWARD COMEDY SHOW injects black comedy with a fresh—and nerdy—new style.
Comic Marina Franklin interviews the Awkward Kings, whose ranks include alternative stand-up artists Victor Varnado, Hannibal Buress, Eric André and Baron Vaughn. The film captures their antics on and off the stage through group hang-out sessions, informal interviews and personal vignettes animated by underground comic book artists. While the Kings each have their own wacky style, they all have two things in common: they’re all a little weird, and they all challenge our preconceptions of what black comedy is and can be.
From the outset you look at the packaging for The Awkward Comedy Show and think “Why is there a writer and director attributed to this? Isn’t it just stand-ups doing comedic bits?” The simple answer is “no” and the extended answer is still a “yes” because that really is the majority of what this supposed “documentary” is about. It can pretty much tell you that it’s not really much of a documentary—of the eighty minutes that it runs, maybe about ten of them are spent off-stage. There are very small vignettes with the individual comedians who talk about either inspirations of being a comedian or just some random anecdote about their childhood, but that’s the extent we really “learn” anything about the comedians profiled here. This isn’t a huge deal because the stand-up bits are appropriately hilarious, but it also brings into question why this was even conceived as a documentary.
It’s an incredibly simple set of stand-up bits and about the only thing I found disappointing out of any of the comedians is we didn’t get to see more of host Marina Franklin as her intermediary stand-up segments was some of the wittiest of the bunch. But I question the tagline on the front of “Comedy, Plus Blackness, to the Nerd Power.” While you could make an argument for the title being less of the usual type of comedy you often get from black comedians, the “nerd power” moniker is a bit curious. Only a few of them exhibit any kind of general interest in what one would consider a nerdy-genre and even then it’s a rather mainstream set of interests. So those expecting some serious nerdy humor may be disappointed…but it’s still great to watch nonetheless.
Every one of the comedians here brought their own brand of humor to the table and each one was a real delight to watch. I only wish the stand-up bits lasted longer, even if they did already overshadow the “documentary” portion of the film. If you’re going in expecting some kind of look into the lives of black comedians then…well, don’t. You learn more from their stand-up routines than you do the sit-down moments, although those are expounded upon in the extras so the disc will probably be worth picking up for that alone. Recommended.
And speaking of the DVD—here we are! A standard single disc DVD case with a disc that boasts art that mimics the cover. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and there is actually a decent collection of extras here. Video and audio is satisfactory, with a solid transfer from start to finish and crystal clear DD2.0 audio.
Audio Commentary with Producer/Director/Comedian Victor Varnado, Producer Jay Stern and Comedian Hannibal Buress
Backstage with the Comedians (5:48)
Bonus Group Interviews (Five total, approx. 12 minutes)
Bonus Jokes (Five total, approx. 12 minutes)
The commentary is a nice bonus and gives you some insight into what director Varnado was trying for here…even if, as I said before, there wasn’t a whole lot of documentary to really look at. Thankfully these extras give us a brief backstage glimpse look with the comedians as well as individual joke/interview extensions that give us more of an insight into the individual comedians.
Not a perfect package, but still a solid collection of extras for a very entertaining “documentary.” Hopefully we’ll get to see more from this group in the future.
Overall a Recommended release.
The Awkward Comedy Show arrives on DVD on May 4th.