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After two phenomenally successful series of The Office (not forgetting the Christmas Specials) and a shed load of awards, comedian Ricky Gervais brought us his first live stand-up DVD in November of 2003. The show, entitled Animals, dealt with a broad range of subjects, from snakes with perfect diction to gay stump-tailed macaques. Now, thanks to Universal/Vision Video Limited, Ricky is back with his second live DVD, Politics.

Ricky Gervais Live 2: Politics
The Show
Filmed at the Palace Theatre in London during his UK tour, Politics opens in a similar fashion to Animals. The audience is introduced to some of the UK’s more thorny political issues via short film, in which Ricky encounters a wheelchair bound Egyptian fellow (The Office producer Ash Atalla) and proceeds to put him in a Fez before questioning his sexuality. This scene pretty much sets the tone for what follows.

When Ricky appears on stage, things get even more interesting with an opening gag about a Rwandan orphan, which leads into jokes about spastics (including our old friend Stephen Hawking), before moving on to topics as diverse as Ghandi, the holocaust and gay sex education pamphlets. As you may have guessed, when it comes to Ricky’s comedy there’s very little that is considered taboo (I’m fond of comedian George Carlin for the same reason). While this is sure to alienate some viewers, Ricky delivers the gags in such a way as to put the audience at ease. It’s almost like listening to your cheeky-chappy mate down the pub, and there was nothing here that I found offensive (although I do have a pretty high threshold for these things).

Ricky Gervais Live 2: Politics
Those of you who remember Ricky from his days on The 11 O’Clock Show will know that he’s never pulled his punches (I remember him questioning some poor unsuspecting individual about bestiality in one episode). Ricky seems a little more polished this time around, and indeed this is evidenced by his appearance. Gone is the casual look of Animals, to be replaced by an altogether slicker looking Mr. Gervais. I’ll be honest and admit that I found his comedy more appealing when he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I’m not revealing some latent homosexuality here, merely trying to convey how I feel about his suit wearing, which detracts from his everyman appeal (leave the suits to Jimmy Carr).

While I thoroughly enjoyed the routine, I have to be honest and say that I found a few of the jokes a little too obvious. Ricky also took a little while to get into its stride, and almost half of the show had elapsed by the time the really funny stuff arrived. What I liked about the Animals routine was the way in which Ricky would set-up a joke and return some time later the payoff (the Anne Frank/Discovery Channel gag for example), but there’s less of this sort of thing here. Unlike my fellow reviewer Richard, I was also a massive fan of the section Ricky did on religion, and there’s really nothing in this show to compare to that (and certainly no snakes with clef palettes). The closest thing to a lengthy running gag is the bit on the gay sex pamphlet, which is brilliant (I’ll never look at a melon in the same way), but this came fairly near the end of the show. At the end of the day humour is a very personal thing, and I know that Richard actually prefers this routine to that of the Animals DVD. For me this show lacked the special something to make it truly great, but it’s still a great way to spend an hour or so.

Video
Politics is presented in anamorphic widescreen in the 1.78:1 ratio. The transfer is generally fine, with nice solid blacks and fine colour rendition. The image was free from artefacts and the level of detail was adequate considering the conditions. To be honest with you there’s really very little to criticise here, especially as the material doesn’t make any particularly demanding requests of the DVD format, but if pushed I’d have to say that there is a small amount of posterisation around the spotlights. Of course this doesn’t particularly affect one’s enjoyment of the show.

Ricky Gervais Live 2: Politics
Audio
The disc includes a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track that is best described as functional. However, it’s fairly obvious that a stand-up show of this nature doesn’t require an all-singing, all-dancing multi-channel sound mix, so it’s not the end of the world. Clarity of dialogue is critical to a release such as this, and thankfully everything is perfectly audible here. If I had to make one criticism it would be that the audio sounded ever so slightly tinny when compared to the audio on the Animals DVD, but it’s nothing that detracts from the overall experience.

Extras
If there was one area of the Animals DVD that I found disappointing it was the extras, which were funny but a little thin on the ground. This minor quibble doesn’t really apply this time around, as the Politics DVD contains a fair amount of supplemental material.

First up is the commentary track, which features both Ricky Gervais and Robin Ince. To say this is an unconventional track is perhaps the biggest understatement of my reviewing career, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. They don’t really concern themselves with commenting on Ricky’s live show as such, with the majority of the track being devoted to a diary of Robin’s activities that may or may not be factually correct. It’s better than it sounds, honest. The best thing about this commentary is that it has a ‘two mates down the pub’ feel to it. There’s plenty of banter, annoying noises (mostly from Ricky) and insightful observations about Ricky’s penchant for choosing people smaller than himself as the butt of his jokes (a self-immolating Vietnamese monk and Stephen Hawking to name but two).

Ricky Gervais Live 2: Politics
Next we have what is perhaps the most amusing of the bonus features, a twenty minute interview entitled Meet Karl Pilkington. Those of you who bought Ricky’s first stand-up DVD may remember him mentioning Karl. He’s the chap who went through a series of pets—cats to be exact—at an alarming rate. Oh, and he also produces Ricky’s XFM radio show. Described by Ricky himself as a little round, bald, money-headed individual, Karl gives his opinions on various political issues such as race, disability, sexuality, education, the elderly, and crime and punishment. This item is about as far removed from political correctness as is possible, and Karl’s opinions had both interviewer Ricky and I in stitches. Along the way we get to hear his thoughts on why there are no thirty five year old Chinese people (apparently they age overnight like pears), ‘freaks’ such as the Elephant Man (‘get some more buns in’) and Stephen Merchant, old people’s disdain for Twix, and his preferred method of execution (lethal injection, as long as the executioner doesn’t slip a finger up his arse).

Living with Ricky is another twenty minute piece that features both Ricky and friend Robin Ince. This piece basically examines the various ways in which Ricky torments Robin before and after they embark on the tour, and I found it pretty amusing. I don’t know how much of their relationship is staged for the camera, but if the commentary is anything to go by the answers appears to be ‘not much’. This in itself is a very scary thing.

The Politics Short follows. This is basically a behind the scenes look at how the short film at the beginning of the stand-up show was made. One again I found this very amusing, mostly because of Ricky’s banter with Ash. There are plenty of instances where the filming session degenerates into riotous laughter, and some of the looks on the faces of passers by are priceless. After the behind the scenes stuff we get to see the whole of the film played out from start to finish, which is something we don’t even see in the main feature.

Robin on Stage is basically, well, Robin Ince on stage. This runs for around three and a half minutes, and gives the viewer an overview of the type of comedy Robin does during the warm-up spots. I found the audience’s laughter surprisingly subdued, as I thought the gags were pretty funny (especially the joke about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery).

Ricky Gervais Live 2: Politics
Overall
Well there you have it, yet another comedy triumph for Ricky Gervais. While I didn’t find Politics as consistently hilarious as Animals, the second half of the show really picked up and I was literally rocking with laughter on occasion. Technically the audio-visual elements of the release are sound, if not outstanding, but the supplemental features are a great improvement over the Animals DVD. This is exemplified by the commentary track, which really benefits from the inclusion of Robin Ince. Ricky Gervais fans would be mad not to pick this one up, but those of you unfamiliar with his politically incorrect brand of humour might want to think twice, especially if you’re very easily offended.


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