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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Stand-Up > George Carlin - Playing With Your Head

George Carlin: Playing With Your Head

 

Picture: C†††† Sound: C†††† Extras: D†††† Program: C

 

 

George Carlin has remained on the cutting edge of comedy for several decades, by daring to go where few comedians have dared, or being clever enough to reach.This has consisted of an uncanny knack for shedding light on our darker sides, playing dumber than he actually is, confronting death more explicitly than just about anyone, offering a bluntness heard too little, having one of the best wits of any performer, and never selling out.He is part of a very small number of giants in comedy and Playing With Your Head shows why.

 

This was originally an HBO special from 1986 and it still holds up very well.This one is remarkably fresh, book ended by a send-up of Mike Hammer with a very welcome guest appearance from the late Vic Tayback.Tayback had first made a reputation for himself has a character actor playing often brutal thugs and gangsters in a series of feature films, only to have his greatest success as loudmouthed oaf Mel Sharples, in Martin Scorseseís Alice Doesnít Live Here Any More (1974).He ran Melís Diner, continuing the role in the extremely successful hit TV series Alice, which was based on that film.Adam Rich from TVís Eight Is Enough, and a few other familiar character actors also surface.

 

Cable was still young when he did this special and it could be said it was work like this that helped build Cable TV into what it is today.The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono reflects this, as does the full screen analog picture.This is about as good as this material is going to playback.

 

The DVD consists only of the TV special, which was shot on the analog professional videotape of the time, a choice here that emphasizes the live aspect of the show.The exception is the bookending black and white sequences, which features the Mike Hammer send-up.This is amusing, though nowhere as outrageous as the humor will get when he takes the stage.

 

The full screen picture quality is poor by todayís standards, but that is not the fault of the DVD transfer, which does its best to capture the image from the original master tape.This is simply reflecting the state of the art at the time, which still yields fairly good color quality in the concert segment, but is simply on the soft side.The sound is a little bit better, but still monophonic.Though Cable was ahead of broadcast TV in going stereo (i.e., MTV), this show is monophonic.It is clear enough to hear all of Carlinís jokes, which is what really counts.

 

Fans of comedy in general and Carlin specifically will enjoy the convenience of having his work on DVD, but it is a shame that more content in extras was not offered.Even this DVD-5 had much more room to offer something else, like HBO promo spots or even audio-only Carlin moments.Its inclusion as part of a boxed set does not excuse the lack of extras either, but the special at least holds its own.

 

 

-Nicholas Sheffo


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