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Jo Brand is no stranger to controversy and even having been around the stand-up circuit for many years she still seems to be an easy target for critics. Her brand of humour (no pun intended!) allows journalists to criticise her for the feminist side of her shows. For anyone who has not seen one of her shows, they basically revolve around lots of man-hating jokes and the occasional swipe at her own weight. The last few years have seen Jo settle down. She is now forty-six, has two children and her appearances in socially acceptable TV shows have resulted in a more chilled lifestyle, which has changed the public’s perception of her.  Broadening her horizons, this year sees her debut in the world of DVD. Barely Live is a live stand-up show shot earlier this year. This was Jo's first appearance in London since having her children, so would being a mother tone down her stand-up show?

Jo Brand - Barely Live
The Show
The Barely Live show was shot at London's Adelphi Theatre on Sunday 21st September, and contained all new material. It is apparent straight away that Jo is on stage to have fun, and if that involves taking the mick out of herself, then so be it. Within only a few seconds of appearing on stage, Jo launches into a few jokes about her physique, which then leads her onto warning a few lads sitting in the front row to run away if she starts winking at them! She then moves onto reminiscing about parenthood, and in particular she discusses controversial areas such a breastfeeding, the wonders of having a stinky house and contraception. Some people will not relate to this aspect of her show (something Jo admits to), but having only become a father within the last year, I found this section of her performance to be very funny and something I could sympathise with.

Other areas that Jo tackles in her show are marriage, stalkers, multi-storey car parks, the menopause and old age. I have seen many stand-up shows over the years, and most of them have a short period in the show where the laughs are few and far between. However, with this show Jo Brand has chosen topics which even if people cannot relate to personally, they should at least find vaguely amusing. There are a few cringe-worthy moments, but overall this is an extremely hilarious show.  By her own admission the show concentrates on non-romantic issues, for example she constantly tells jokes at the expense of her husband, but to be honest these moments are some of the funniest on offer here, and leaving them out would have lessened the impact of the show.

Recently I had the chance to interview Jo Brand, and before the interview I have to admit to not having been her greatest fan (sorry Jo!), but during the chat I had with her I realised that she is actually a really nice person, and her shows are in fact deliberately controversial. Having now had the chance to see her latest show I have to admit to being won over. My wife has always been a fan of hers, but previously I wasn’t really convinced. She is obviously a professional at what she does and knows exactly how to get a reaction from her audiences. Her shows contain no thrills and for the most part she strolls up and down the stage. However, even though the whole duration of the show (70 mins worth) consists of Jo wandering aimlessly up and down the stage trying to make people laugh, the greatest compliment I can pay her is that the performance flew by, in fact it could have done with being slightly longer if anything! Her performance seems effortless but nevertheless she has the talent to make people laugh. Many newcomers to stand-up comedy appear to make far more of an effort but don’t deliver the same high standards.

Jo Brand - Barely Live
Jo Brand’s humour is such that you will either love it or loathe it. It’s true to say that she has recently toned it down a little, but even so her dry, witty, man-hating sense of humour is still very much alive. The fact that she has developed her show to fit in other areas will hopefully mean that both male and female audiences alike will find something to chuckle at. If you are a looking for a stand-up DVD to make you laugh this Christmas, I can definitely recommend Jo Brand – Barely Live.

Video
This show in presented in widescreen 1.78:1, and it also appeared to be anamorphically enhanced. This is a hard transfer to judge, as the theatre she is performing in is extremely dark, so judging the colour palette is a near impossible task. Apart from a blue curtain and red background, the rest of the image is made up of strong blacks. Thankfully the blacks were solid and true throughout, while Jo's skin tone appeared realistic.  The image itself is clear, not quite up to the standard of Hollywood blockbusters, but perfectly acceptable. I noticed no sign of grain during the performance, and there did not appear to be any edge enhancements either.  Compression artifacts were also nowhere to be seen, so overall this is a perfectly functional transfer.

Audio
Just the one soundtrack with this disc, but that’s no surprise really. I don't mean to state the obvious, but stand-up comedy is completely dialogue driven, apart from the introduction music, so what we are treated to is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which does everything expected of it. Jo's voice is clear throughout and hopefully you shouldn't miss any of her jokes because of the soundtrack. The menus are static and pretty standard, but there are no subtitles included. I didn't expect a wide range of subtitles due to the fact that Jo tends to only perform in the UK, but it would have been nice to have some English subtitles.

Extras
The extras section of this disc is pretty sparse and technically speaking the extras that you will find are just sections from the show which were cut out of the main performance for some reason. The first extra is called McCartney and Blaine Story. As the title suggests, this aspect of her show tackles the recent David Blaine stunt, and in particular Paul McCartney's recent outburst while visiting the magician. This extra would have fitted in at the beginning of the show and lasts for just over two minutes.  The other extra is entitled [/i]Heckler[/i]. Most stand-up shows have a heckler, some of whom I am convinced are put into the audience by the performer to add a few laughs. I don't think that is the case here, because Jo takes the mick out of the heckler and his friend, but probably wishes she hadn't! This extra lasts for about three minutes and also features a funny moment where Jo talks about a gig she did in Wolverhampton. So, there we have it, just the two extras on this disc, both of which are funny, but it would have been nice to have a bit more variety. Hopefully this is the first of many titles from the comedian on DVD, and this is an area she should look to improve on.

Jo Brand - Barely Live
Overall
I am not the greatest fan of female stand-up comedy, but after watching this DVD, I can thoroughly recommend Jo Brand. Her humour will at times make you cringe, but her unique blend of feminist jokes and real life situations should also have you crying with laughter. You know what you are getting with Jo Brand, if you are looking for an hour of pure stand-up comedy from someone who knows how to deliver, then look no further than this Barely Live DVD. As for the DVD, it is a reasonable debut from the comedian, the transfer is impressive and the audio is adequate. The extras are somewhat of a disappointment, but it’s a start! Hopefully this will the first of many from Jo Brand because the DVD format definitely needs some more quality stand-up titles.  


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