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Sunday, November 24, 2013

DVD Review: Bill Cosby: “…Far From Finished”

The first three comedy albums I ever owned were all Bill Cosby albums. Those made me laugh every time I listened to them, no matter how familiar I became with the material. That’s not the case with a lot of comedy albums. But it will certainly be true of this new special by Bill Cosby, …Far From Finished. No one can tell a story quite like Bill Cosby can. He can take something that seems simple, like buying a couple of cookies, for example, and turn it into an hilarious ordeal of sorts. While most comedy specials seem to be in the 60 to 70 minute range, …Far From Finished is 95 minutes.

At the opening, a man walks out and places a throne on stage. He comes back out a moment later to remove it, then replaces it with a more comfortable-looking armchair, then again with a plainer chair, and finally with a simple folding chair, which he tosses onto the stage. It is then that Bill Cosby comes out and sets up the chair. It’s a silly bit of business, but is actually funny and sets that sort of casual tone for the special. Because this really is a sort of conversation, and you feel you’re somehow taking part even if you’re silent. (You won’t really be silent of course, because a lot of the time you’ll be laughing out loud.)

He starts by talking about the reaction folks had to his announcement that he’d be doing a new special on Comedy Central. His facial expressions, as always, are priceless. And then certain lines just stick out as perfectly (and hilariously) stated. Like, “As you grow, you find people in your way.” And “There used to be a time when songwriters wrote words.” I love his delivery. His pauses are often as funny as what he says.

He talks about someone falling in love, meeting that special person, and saying he’d like to spend the rest of his life with her. “When you fall in love, you accept craziness.” Oh yes (and another of those wonderful, simply stated lines). And he takes us through the process. “She’s called a girlfriend. Girlfriend. Now this person is wonderful for you. She will even drink beer with you…She will watch sports with you, and even knows your friends by name.” He continues with the process by which she ceases to be that person, and becomes a wife. All of his material on marriage is completely wonderful, and actually most of this special focuses on that topic.

He talks about how chess is supposedly about war, but he sets us straight – it’s about marriage. He says, “The queen moves anywhere she wants, picking off people. And what happens to the king? He’s moving one square.” Another of those lines that sticks out is, when trying to get the story from his children: “And when you’re an experienced parent, you pick out the weak one.”

This performance had me laughing out loud most of the time, and smiling joyfully the rest. This is one I’ll be returning to and sharing with others.

Bonus Features

The DVD contains a few bonus features, the best being an interview with Bill Cosby conducted by Robert Townsend. First of all, this is a nice long interview. It’s 49 minutes. And Robert Townsend is generally really smart about knowing when not to speak, so most of that 49 minutes is Bill Cosby. Because he’s such an excellent storyteller, this interview is often as entertaining as his comedy special. And it’s certainly very interesting. Bill Cosby talks about the first positive feedback he got from a teacher. He talks about the influence of The 2000 Year Old Man, how that record freed him. He talks about his first job at The Gaslight, and recalls some of his earliest material. He also goes into how he creates his material, and mentions that the famous “Dad-is-great” bit was actually ad-libbed during that performance. I didn’t know that. He admits to ripping off a routine from George Carlin, and also talks about Lenny Bruce. He goes into the rapport with the audience, and the way they respond to him. He also talks about the “Bernadette” piece, which is a bonus track on the CD version of this special.

A second bonus feature is “Gangbusters #1,” which is a short piece with Bill Cosby talking to the musicians about the tune for the special (which Bill Cosby wrote, by the way).

There is also something titled “Behind The Scenes,” but it’s oddly more about the students that shot it, with them interviewing each other. One of them even says, “I’m a people person.” (Tip: If you ever find yourself about to utter that line, stop, smack yourself, smack yourself again, and say something – anything – else. Say, “I like giraffes.” Anything.) This bonus feature is pointless, as there is very little actual behind-the-scenes footage, and most folks likely won't care about these students.

The last bit is footage of audience members gushing about how much they love Bill Cosby.

…Far From Finished is scheduled to be released on DVD, Blu-ray and CD on November 26, 2013. It aired on Comedy Central on November 23, 2013.

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