Mike Birbiglia and Dana Gould

DVD reviews by Steve Bennett

An appealing storyteller with a strong sense of timing, Mike Birbiglia conjures up some fantastic comic images in his first stand-up DVD, released this week on Pias.

The thought of his shocked, technophobe parents finding their PC infected with a hardcore porn virus after excitedly opening a clearly malicious spam email, for example, is so vivid – the icing on the cake coming from the mild-mannered Birbiglia’s graphic but sober description of how the infected desktop looks.

And while tales of bad gigs can suggest an insular comedian with a small sphere of experience, Birbiglia’s extended yarn about a golf-club benefit delights with every embarrassing turn from start to briliant payoff.

Like many a comic, he has a tendency to say the wrong thing – hence the title What I Should Have Said Is Nothing, a conclusion he belatedly came to after putting his foot in it one time too many. These incidents never feel contrived, but confessional examples of when he should have engaged his brain first.

In his comedy, however, he does pay a lot more attention to what he says, with a fluid, descriptive style to all his anecdotes. Plus he has a great skill in bringing out the points when the stories go bad without labouring the point.

There’s a rather odd segment when he talks about the US President without naming him, and it takes a moment to realise this is a three-year-old recording and it’s the usual Bush-bashing angle, which already seems passé. But this second aside, this is a thoroughly entertaining hour in the company of an accomplished, if underrated, comedian.

Dana Gould’s DVD, also on the Pias label, is less easy to love, partly because Gould is a much more brusque performer insistent on telling us what he goddamn thinks, partly because a lot the subject matter isn’t so distinctive. But it does have its moments.

We have a few whines about what it’s like to be married, while his big idea that while the world is going to pot we in the West are spending money on eBay trinkets and far-from-vital research into things like Viagra rather than cancer.

Fans of plagiarism theories might also like to observe that he also performs a routine about astronauts finding everyday life empty after having experienced the wonders of walking on the moon – an idea which Stewart Lee explored years ago and subsequently suggested Jack Whitehall might have purloined.

There are few nicer routines, though. The last chapter is an extended story about encountering a young bum on the street that, while not laugh-out-loud hilarious, is a compelling yarn, and builds to a visual treat for the not-too-easily offended.

It’s shot largely – though not exclusively - from a single camera to give it a more authentic look than most TV stand-up specials, but that also has the effect of making the recording look really rather cheap.

Running time: 56 mins
Extras: 25-minute encore; Strictly For Fans, 26 mins of backstage and o the road footage
Released by Pias, priced £14.99. Click here to buy from Amazon for £8.99.

Running time: 49 mins
Extras: Outtake (1min 30s) – a funny, but dark outtake: Interview with director Bob Odenkirk (7mins); Soul Mates, a short film (15 mins)
Released by Pias, priced £14.99. Click here to buy from Amazon for £9.47.

Published: 22 Apr 2010

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.