* Prices may differ from that shown
Rowan Atkinson Live! is a compilation of two stage shows performed by the comedian in the late 80s and early 90s. It collects together some of his finest sketches and presents them in a sixty minute DVD that showcases his talents at both physical and verbal comedy.
By the time this particular DVD was released, Atkinson was already a household name thanks to shows like Not the Nine O' Clock News, Blackadder and Mr Bean. Essentially, if you enjoy any of those programmes, then you will find that this DVD offers more of the same. If you can't stand Atkinson's style of humour, then there is nothing here that will make you change your mind.
Atkinson's skill lies in blending very different styles of comedy. Fans of his early stuff from not the Nine O' Clock News will remember that he often raised laughs from visual comedy (pulling silly faces) and physical comedy (his ability to contort his seemingly rubbery body into all sorts of weird angles). As he moved towards Blackadder he also became adept at verbal comedy, combining clever wordplay, superb comic timing and just the right vocal inflection to milk laughs out of seemingly ordinary lines.
Whichever Atkinson you prefer, you will find something to make you laugh on this DVD. Sketches such as "Tom, Dick and Harry" are brilliantly constructed, making clever use of concepts and language to play around with our prejudices and expectations and create some very, very funny moments. Others (Dating for Beginners) rely much more on Atkinson's physical abilities.
The thing with Atkinson's sketches is that, whichever style you prefer, there are laugh out loud moments in all of them. Whether watching him mime how to receive a bill whilst on a date or listening to him as the Devil greeting new arrivals in Hell, you will find yourself laughing helplessly. It's hard to imagine another performer who can so effortlessly switch between physical and verbal comedy and lose nothing.
Atkinson is also the master of delivery. It's not just that he has a highly developed sense of comic timing - knowing exactly how long a pause to leave before delivering a punch line. He also has an excellent repertoire of comedy accents and has an innate ability of giving characters exactly the right "voice". The accents Atkinson chooses for characters are not there by accident; they actually add something to the overall comedy, the inflection used somehow making lines even funnier. It's not just what he says; it's how he says it.
True, a couple of the sketches have also become a little over-familiar and if you are an Atkinson fan, the chances are you will have seen or heard many of them already (even if not this particular performance of them). One, for example, is essentially the prototype for part of the very first episode of Mr Bean and will be instantly familiar to millions of viewers. Having said that, it is still very funny and even knowing what comes next can't blunt it. Indeed, if anything it makes it funnier, as you are anticipating the punch line.
Fans of more modern stand-up might feel the show is a little outdated. It is a simple collection of sketches with no connection to each other and no over-arching theme for the show. There are no long monologues full of pithy observations and one-liners on the frustrations of modern life; it's essentially a traditional TV sketch show transferred to the stage. Yet give or take one or two references which have aged badly, Atkinson's stage show still for the most part feels fresh and vibrant and, above all, funny.
It's true that it can sometimes feel a little disjointed. For a start, this is not a standard "Live" DVD , recorded at a single performance. Instead, it is an amalgamation of two different shows Atkinson performed in different years. As such, it is not a complete record of either show, but cherry picks the best bits from each. Editing between the two is fairly basic and the transition from one venue to another (and one stage setting to another) sometimes causes a slight feeling of displacement. To be honest, though, this is being picky for the sake of it - most of the time, you will be laughing too hard to even notice.
Available for around £15 (new), this is a DVD that will make you really cheer you up and make you laugh out loud. £15 for an hour's entertainment might not sound great value, when many films cost half that and last twice as long. Ignore simple economics because you'll definitely get your money's worth out of this one and will watch it time and time again.
If you enjoy Rowan Atkinson's style of comedy, this is a must-have DVD.
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Rowan Atkinson is mostly known to the current young generations for his marvellous and approachable work as the man of few words - Mr. Bean. His comic genius as shown in Black Adder which covers periods of history starting some 500 years ago is also likely to remain unforgotten.
A lot of his stand-up work, remains unknown - particularly to audiences abroad. This DVD was filmed in 1991 and if there's one fault, it's definitely not the sketches that it consists of but the fact that it is too short. The sketches are well prepared and Rowan makes awesome use of the simplest of props (a bus like seat for instance) on his awesome "Invisible Man" sketch, which is only beaten in the hillarious physical comedy stakes by his Guide to A Perfect First Date where his actions and facial expressions are purely amazing! Angus Deayton plays the spoken roles for these perfectly.
It's not all physical comedy though and there's quite a bit of humour arising from Atkinson's clever words on several sketches, including my personal favourite "The Fatal Beatings" sketch, I've no idea how he manages to keep a straight face and there are some hillarious lines in there. Likewise "The Good Loser" an actor at a ceremony who is there to pick up an award on behalf of one of his co-actors is highly entertaining and a very entertaining observation as well!
I'm aware of many other funny Rowan Atkinson sketches and only wish they were somehow incorporated in to this DVD to lengthen it.