Not exactly new material, this DVD contains selected highlights of his 1981 and 1986 tours, which he performed in America in 1991 with an innocent young Angus Deayton as his sidekick.
They are classic sketches, once ubiquitous but now little seen. While older fans may well be able to mouth along with the words, this show might come as a revelation for those not familiar with Atkinson beyond Bean and Blackadder. He was a strong character performer, and his move to TV and largely unremarkable movies was certainly the live stage’s loss.
Straight-laced establishment figures are his forte, with a couple of teachers, no fewer than three comedy vicars, and even a Devil, welcoming visitors to hell with the sardonic deadpan of a mid-ranking administrative manager.
You can see a prototype Mr Bean in several of the near-silent sketches, most notably the instructional scene about going on a date, but here it seems fresher than the TV episodes became. And the scene in which he plays a remarkably patient Indian waiter coping with the unseen late-night onslaught of drunken lads is a masterclass.
There are a couple of slightly odd touches with the filming here. The word ‘fucking’ is bleeped out, which seems oversensitive given that one scene is simply a headmaster reading out a list of rude words in a roll-call, and one or two sketches have the feeling of canned laughter.But those technicalities aside, these sketches mark an important point in comedy history, being at the crossover between the Python generation and what came to be called ‘alternative comedy’. Better than that, they’re still funny, too.
|Sample joke: ‘Anus, Arsebandit, Bottom, Clitoris - where are you Clitoris? – Do-Do, Enema…’|
|Extras: One bonus five-minute scene in which he mimes playing the drums – that’s yer lot.|
|Recorded at: Boston University Theatre, Massachusetts|
|Main show running time: 65 mins|
Release date: November 17, 2008
Rowan Atkinson Live