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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Comedy > TV Mini-Series > Make Em Laugh (2008/Rhino DVD Set/Documentary Mini-Series)

Make Em Laugh (2008/Rhino DVD Set/Documentary Mini-Series)


Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: B- Episodes: B



Though it has been attempted several times, it is hard to do a documentary series on comedy. There is always something missing, the ideas of what the producers consider comedy fall flat and it can easily fall into formula. The latest attempt at this has some of those trappings, but the new TV documentary mini-series Make Em Laugh (2008, shown on PBS, released here on DVD by Rhino) makes up for it with some great clips, some clips of footage that has been in the vault for too long and even host Billy Crystal is kept to a thankful minimum.


There are six hour-long installments as follows:


1)     Would Ya Hit A Guy With Glasses? Nerds, Jerks & Oddballs

2)     Honey, Im Home Breadwinners & Homemakers

3)     Slip On A Banana Peel The Knockabouts

4)     When Im Bad, Im Better The Groundbreakers

5)     Never Give A Sucker An Even Break The Wiseguys

6)     Sock It To Me? Satire & Parody



Informative and well-researched, Amy Sedaris narrates and is more effective than expected through the series. Detail can be very impressive, some inclusions like The Goldbergs & the era of network radio is a plus and I was pleased with how much great material managed to be licensed (the BBC and WNET co-produced) to make this enough of a must-see series that everyone can appreciate. With the sad shape of comedy on TV and in movies, its arrival is most timely.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image has various aspect ratios from feature film 1.33 X 1 to TV 1.33 X 1, plus some widescreen movie 1.85 at moments, but the most interesting thing are certain TV sitcoms shot on film and even analog NTSC video that are offered here at 1.78 X 1. Because of the oval shape of older analog TVs, film shoots were definitely aware of the issue, plus extra headroom was also considered in case a clip had to be released in movie theaters at 1.85 X 1. That makes sense for the filmed sitcoms, but that videotaped shows like All In The Family look good that way is a surprise. This may be the beginning for many of people getting adjusted to this change, but in most cases, it looks good.


Despite claims of PCM sound on the back of the box, this disc set has nothing by Dolby Digital 2.0 sound that is usually stereo, but so many of the clips going back to early films are monophonic, that you should expect inconsistencies. The good thing is that the audio is usually as first generation as the film and video. Extras include more extensive interviews on all three discs, which naturally include more jokes and funny stories.



- Nicholas Sheffo


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