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John Moffitt
Dana Carvey
Writing Credits:
Dana Carvey

He's the man with a thousand faces, and in this HBO comedy special Dana Carvey takes on baby boomers, Scientology, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush (just to get started). Known for his witty political humor and flawless impressions, Carvey also takes his act to a personal level as he makes light of getting older, modern parenting, and the health problems that put him out of commission for a number of years. This live stand-up performance was recorded in Santa Rosa, California and just may divulge the secret of why "squatting monkeys tell no lies."

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 56 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 8/19/08

• 10 Deleted Scenes
• Q&A With the Audience
Dana Carvey: Critics’ Choice 1995 Stand-Up Show


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Dana Carvey: Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 11, 2008)

Back in the mid-1990s, Dana Carvey vanished from the show biz radar. He popped up again in 2002 with the dreadful film Master of Disguise, and I thought this comeback attempt would keep him with us on a regular basis. Nope – Carvey has made few appearances over the last six years.

Which makes it time for another comeback! Carvey returns to his stand-up roots with an HBO special called Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies. First aired in June 2008, the show features Carvey’s takes on his northern California home, Scientology and religion, doctors and aging, his parents, Andy Rooney, current political personalities, parenting and kids, sex and relationships, and other topics connected to his life.

As all my friends know, I’m a tough laugh, especially when it comes to stand-up comics. Heck, it can be difficult for comedians just make me crack a smile, as the vast majority of stand-ups outright stink.

While Monkeys doesn’t provide a consistent laugh-riot, it prompts more than a handful of chuckles. Its weakest spots come toward the middle. The Andy Rooney bit goes on far too long, and Carvey’s political observations lack the zing and insight to make them winning. He rambles somewhat when he digs into the politicians, and the show loses steam.

However, Carvey rebounds when he gets into a “Reagan Oracle” routine. This looks at Reagan as the decider of decades of presidents, a subject that proves surprisingly witty. Of course, this part allows Carvey to throw out tons of impressions, including fan faves Bush I and Ross Perot. His take on the personalities works best when he runs through them rapidly. They grow stale in the middle of the show, but the “Reagan Oracle” piece goes rapid-fire and really cooks.

From there the show maintains a good pace. Though best known for his characters and impressions, Carvey’s stand-up material works best when it takes on a more observational tone. His jokes about parenting and other social areas become quite funny, and his facility for voices helps the material. His consistently high level of enthusiasm adds a real kick as well; Carvey so fully buys into his gags that you can’t help but get swept away by his vigor.

Fans may feel disappointed by the absence of Carvey’s classic SNL characters like the Church Lady, but I don’t think they go missed. He offers too much funny material without those personalities for the audience to really care about their absence. If Monkeys acts as a comeback for Carvey, I’d say it’s good to see him again.

Final catty footnote: whoever did the cover art needs to stay away from Photoshop. The pictures make Carvey look like he’s about 15. Granted, some of that comes from the plastic surgery he’s clearly had over the years, but the cover shots still seem way too touched up and fake for my liking.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C/ Bonus B+

Dana Carvey: Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Simplicity ruled the day with Monkeys, as the result was perfectly decent.

Sharpness generally seemed satisfactory. Sometimes the wider shots appeared a little ill defined and weren’t as distinctive as I’d like. Nonetheless, the program mostly came across as accurate and concise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I saw light signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also were absent, as the presentation suffered from no artifacts, video noise or other issues.

Given the basic setting, colors stayed simplistic but solid. Purple audience lights and the stage’s light blue backdrop dominated the palette. Both looked firm and well depicted within the low-key parameters of the show. Blacks also appeared deep and firm, and the occasional low-light shot seemed clear and appropriately visible. There wasn’t a whole lot to the visual presentation of Monkeys, but the DVD replicated the concert acceptably well.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Monkeys. Not surprisingly, the mix presented a very modest soundfield. Carvey’s monologue emanated from the front center channel most of the time, so that speaker heavily dominated the proceedings. Occasionally Carvey’s remarks briefly popped up from the sides, but his material almost always came from the middle. Otherwise, we got audience laughter and applause from the front sides and surrounds. And that was it! Virtually no music appeared in the program; some tunes appeared only at the very beginning and end of the program.

Audio quality remained positive. Speech easily became the most important aspect of the track, and Carvey’s remarks sounded decent. They seemed a little boomy at times, which made them a bit unnatural. Nonetheless, I noticed no edginess or problems with distortion, as his comments were always pretty smooth. The applause and laughter also seemed clear and accurate. No one will use Monkeys as a demo disc, but the soundtrack did what it needed to do.

A few extras fill out the package. On DVD One, we get 10 Deleted Scenes. These include “Snake River Trip”, “Nancy Pelosi”, “Communication”, “Immigration”, “John McCain”, “Bill Clinton”, “Bush and the French President”, “Rudy Giuilani”, “Deepak Chopra” and “Irish Family/Aer Lingus”. Because this part of the DVD lacks time encoding, I can’t offer an accurate view of the length of the clips, but all together they ran about 16 minutes.

Most of the snippets offer brief trims from the show. “Snake River Trip” is the most extended one, as Carvey tells of a family boating trek. “Irish” is also reasonably long as well. Both are pretty good, so I don’t know why they got the boot from the full program. The other bits are decent as well, so this collection of deleted bits becomes fun.

A Q&A With the Audience runs 15 minutes, seven seconds. This component offers exactly what the title promises: a post-performance chat between Carvey and the crowd. He discusses subjects like the Church Lady, his health, his kids’ “naked time”, his stay in the White House, California culture and politics, smoking pot with Paul McCartney, and the Church Lady slot machine. Carvey tosses out plenty more funny remarks in this enjoyable piece.

Over on DVD Two, we find Dana Carvey: Critics’ Choice, a 1995 HBO special. It fills 58 minutes, 30 seconds with stand-up material. Also shot in northern California, Carvey touches on topics related to living in that area, parenthood, celebrity sexual indiscretions, starting on SNL and meeting Paul McCartney, staying at the White House, OJ Simpson’s case, musicians, and a few impressions.

Some comedy endures over the years better than others, and Critics’ Choice occasionally sags due to its dated nature. It includes a fair amount of then-topical material, so those parts don’t hold up particularly well. In particular, the OJ routine drags after all these years. However, it features enough gags that fall into the “timeless” category – such as those related to having kids – that it offers sufficient amusement. It’s definitely a nice addition to the set.

One disappointment related to Critics’ Choice: you’ll hear quite a few of the same jokes in the “Q&A”. That’s not a flaw inherent in Critics’ Choice, since the gags were new in 1995. It’s just weak that Carvey reused the same bits 13 years later.

After maintaining a low profile for quite some time, Dana Carvey makes a good comeback with Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies. Though not a classic, the stand-up program musters quite a few laughs. The DVD presents acceptable picture and audio along with some nice supplements. I think the show deserves a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2222 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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