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.