After three successful tours in the U.K., Ricky Gervais finally brings his hilarious observational comedy style to the United States with this HBO special filmed in Madison Square Garden. Much of the material is recycled from his earlier U.K. specials (Animals, Politics, and Fame), with any cultural references that don’t translate well across the pond carefully avoided. The result is essentially a best-of performance intended for American viewers unfamiliar with the comedian. Gervais’s charm comes in not taking himself too seriously—often playing up the ignorant persona that bred his character David Brent of The Office in order to crack jokes about taboo topics like children with cancer and autism (“Speaking of little bald fuckers, I did a teenager cancer gig last year”). He also manages to bring in historical references a la Eddie Izzard, imagining a conversation between Adolf Hitler and Friedrich Nietzsche where the Führer explains how he “read between the lines” when deciding to kill all the Jews after reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra. One of the smartest comedy writers working today, Gervais’s biting stand-up style is certainly proof of his talents. While his earlier specials delve into topics a little more deeply, and Animals includes his hilarious Bible-reading bit, this DVD is certainly a great introduction for those unfamiliar with Gervais or his stand-up.
A standard stand-up special like this doesn’t need many perks in the audio-visual department and so HBO delivers a standard setup. A good job was done filming the performance and the disc boasts a nice image, with audio that’s clean with little reverb. HBO only offers a 2.0 stereo audio track whereas a fuller 5.1 mix would have been appreciated. Menus are simple and chapters are conveniently broken up by topic.
The only extra is an 11-minute interview with Ricky Gervais intercut with scenes from the special. Gervais mostly reflects on differences between American and British audiences. Given that his American tour only consisted of a few dates in Los Angeles and New York, perhaps a longer stretch would have given HBO some more bonus material to include as the U.K. releases of Gervais’s specials generally include home video footage filmed by the comedian while on tour and other extra content.
It’s about time Ricky Gervais was out of England.