I’ve seen some very funny movies in the theatres lately, but let me tell you about the two best pieces of entertainment that I’ve seen this week:
Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith — Back in 2002, film-maker Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc…) released a two-DVD compilation of the best moments of five lengthy Q & A sessions he had held at various college campuses. This little slice of comic genius was called An Evening With Kevin Smith. It is a raucous, profane, and relentlessly entertaining four hours spent learning FAR more than you probably ever wanted to know about Kevin Smith’s life, career, show-biz interactions, and sexual habits. The kids ask Smith questions on all sorts of topics, and he answers with surprising honesty and brilliant humor. The man is a spectacular story-teller. There are so many gems to be found on this DVD set (one of the most-watched in my large DVD collection), but my two favorites concern Smith’s experiences filming documentary footage for Prince (“Chaka mad? Chaka real mad!”), and his lengthy tale of the year he spent, in the late 90′s, working on a Superman movie script for Warner Brothers. In addition to being one of the funniest stories I have ever heard (as Smith goes into painful, hilarious detail of the ins and outs of trying to get the relaunch made in crazy Hollywoodland), that tale also serves to explain (to me, at least) why so many big-budget Hollywood movies wind up being so awful. Oh, and the epilogue to the story, about Smith’s public fight with Tim Burton, is a classic as well. Oh, OK, and I must also mention the tale of Smith’s first hook-up with the woman who would become his wife. This story might sound innocuous, but it has to be heard to be believed. (Remember what I wrote before about Smith’s honesty? Let’s just say that it is on full display here.)
In 2006, Smith released An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder. While bearing a phenomenal title, this set contained footage from just two Q & A shows, and as a result it was a bit weaker. (There was less material to draw from.) However, that’s not to say that there’s not a lot of fun to be had. The discussion of Jason Mewes’ “half-half-whole” technique (which I will not explain any further here) in particular is a winner, and left me anticipating the hopeful future release of a third DVD set.
Which brings us to Threevening. This double-DVD contains footage from just one show, but it’s a doozy: Kevin Smith’s celebration of his 37th birthday with an almost five-hour Q & A in his hometown of Red Bank, New Jersey. In this installment, Smith tells stories about the making of Clerks II and his involvement in Die Hard with a Vengeance, but the highlight is a tale about jury duty and an anal fissure that is over an hour long, shockingly graphic, and also fall-on-the-floor hysterical.
My only complaint: for some weird reason, a significant number of questions (mostly the questions that lead to a short answer from Smith) were edited out of the main feature, and instead placed as “special features” on the second disc. Why was this done? Why cut up the show? (The edits are done smoothly — when watching the main feature I had no clue anything was missing. But once I discovered it I was irritated, as I would have preferred to just have the whole show presented intact.) There are a LOT of funny and interesting questions and answers in these “special features” scenes, so if you pick up this disc, be sure not to miss ‘em!
Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II — In the running for the best 23 minutes of television ever broadcast is last year’s Robot Chicken’s Star Wars Special. That installment of Comedy Central’s stop-motion animated series mocked (with great love and also brutal, brutal honesty) George Lucas’ beloved series, and every moment of the very short run-time was pure gold. My favorite bits included an ad for Admiral Ackbar Cereal (“Your tongues can’t repel flavor of this magnitude!”); a meeting of the Death Star officers deciding the best way to survive working with Darth Vader; Jar-Jar Binks’ reaction when he meets his beloved friend Ani, now Darth Vader; Boba Fett’s taunting monologue to a captured, Carbonite-encased Han Solo; and of course the opening sketch in which the Emperor on Coruscant receives a phone call from Vader, informing him of the destruction of the Death Star (“They blew it up? Who’s THEY?? What the hell is an aluminum falcon??”)
Seeing as how I’ve watched my DVD of that first special about ten times, I was overjoyed to hear of a sequel, which aired on Comedy Central this past weekend. I am pleased to report that great brilliance is once more on display. The new sketches include a look inside Anakin Skywalker’s mind when he was massacring Jedi younglings in Episode III; Jar-Jar as a spokes-person for Gecko Auto Insurance; Storm-trooper Take Your Daughter to Work Day; what happened to Boba Fett after he was eaten by the Sarlacc; the reaction of Imperial officers after the end of Return of the Jedi (“What do you mean, the rebels won? We still have tens of thousands of ships, and we control countless worlds!”); and of course another great Vader-Emperor phone call, this time a parody of their scene in Empire (“What is my bidding? How about I bid you to stop ramming my ships into asteroid fields!!”). If you love Star Wars then you owe it to yourself to catch a re-run of this (or to pick up the inevitable DVD release). You won’t regret it.