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With two Bafta's under his belt, Ricky Gervais could have been forgiven for carrying on with what had made him a success. Many fans (myself included!) would have been more than happy to welcome further series’ of The Office, but Ricky had different ideas. Having himself been disappointed in the past by comedies failing to live up to expectations, Ricky felt it was best to leave David Brent and Co on a high.  So, what would be next for him? Well he decided to write and perform his first ever stand-up comedy show called Animals. The shows were complete sell-outs, and this DVD is a chance for him to show people that he has other strings to his bow.  

Ricky Gervais Live: Animals
The Show
Animals was filmed at The Bloomsbury Theatre in London during the comedian’s two week tour. The slogan for the tour was ‘Life on Earth (the bits David Attenborough left out)’, and there is no better person to talk about the animal kingdom than Ricky himself. By his own admission Ricky is a fan of nature programmes, and admits to spending hours switching between Digital TV channels looking for wildlife documentaries. The show begins with a short film on animal copulation, narrated by Ricky, who decides to add comedy value by speaking in a French accent. This then leads into the star’s entrance and he doesn’t waste any time jumping into his first jokes, one of the first targets being Fat Club’s Rick Wallar.

The crux of the show really gets underway when he start to recite facts from the animal kingdom, the first being about bats, which turns out to be one of the funniest sketches in the show. Other animal topics which are dealt with include gay animals, sharks, pandas and even King Kong! There is also an amusing sequence where Ricky recites some animal facts that he found on a website, it is surprising what some people admit to knowing! Ricky has always been renowned for tackling controversial topics, so it is no great surprise to see the comedian getting stuck into contentious issues such as the Bible and bestiality. Without wishing to be a prude, these topics in my opinion are the weakest that he covers, and although Ricky obviously had a reason for chosing to mock Christianity (listen to his commentary), this is maybe an area where he should have respected other peoples’ beliefs. His show doesn’t need to be so controversial, he has shown over the past year or so that he can reach a wide audience without having to provoke a reaction, so hopefully this is an area he will tone down in the future. Controversial areas aside, Ricky’s show is a fresh approach to stand-up and hopefully an area he will have time to develop over the next couple of years.  

Ricky Gervais Live: Animals
As for Ricky Gervais the performer, well it’s fair to say you won’t see a more animated person on stage. Ricky is a very expressive person, who uses hand gestures and facial expressions to emphasise his points throughout. It’s obvious that he enjoys being on stage, and the show benefits from his enthusiasm. Compared to seasoned performers such as Billy Connolly and Jo Brand, Ricky isn’t quite the finished product yet, but considering that this is his first show it is not a bad debut! So, who is this DVD going to appeal to? Well, I am sure fans of The Office will love to see their hero plying his trade at something a bit different, and fans of stand-up will probably enjoy the fresh approach he brings to the stage. Some people may have their doubts about a show based on the animal kingdom (I did before seeing this DVD), but Ricky knows his stuff and manages to pull off an amusing performance.

Video
This DVD is presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, and is an impressive effort. Like most stand-up shows, the theatre is darkened so the only light is on the performer, and to some extent behind him. Therefore black levels have to be spot-on and thankfully that is the case here. Blacks appeared deep and solid, and the other objects on stage had a realistic colour to them as well. The image itself is crystal clear. Ricky is one of the most expressive stand-up comedians I have seen and his every facial expression is show in its full glory. There was no sign of compression artifacts and edge enhancements were not visible. Thankfully grain levels are kept to a minimal level because otherwise they would have been quite distracting with a DVD of this type. Overall, this is a very competent transfer.    

Audio
Only the one soundtrack with this DVD, which is an English 2.0 Stereo track. Reviewing stand-up DVDs is pretty easy, as apart from the audience noises the only other effect is the performer’s voice. Ricky’s voice is audible throughout, you shouldn’t have any problems making out what he is saying, and the audience noises never drowned him out. Apart from that there isn’t much else to say about this soundtrack. The menus are pretty simplistic, they are made up of tacky animated sequences but are actually pretty funny to watch. There are no subtitles with this disc.  

Extras
Just the two extras with this release, which on paper looks quite lightweight, whereas in fact what is included is of the highest quality. The first extra is Behind The Scenes Of Animals which Ricky made during his two week run at The Bloomsbury Theatre. This is a very funny documentary where we get to see clips from the editing sessions, interview sections with Ricky chilling back stage, and an invigorating discussion with Carl Pilkington. Probably the funniest part of this documentary is a section with Ricky’s cat! The documentary lasts for over twenty six minutes and is a perfect accompaniment to the main attraction.

Ricky Gervais Live: Animals
The only other extra on this disc is an audio commentary with Ricky. During the commentary he questions the need for the commentary, but as he had a day off he thought he might as well do one! I for one am glad he did so, as this is one of the funniest commentaries I have heard in a long while. I am not a huge fan of commentaries, but I found this one to be very interesting and was hooked until the very end. Ricky uses the commentary to back up his jokes, and in some instances to even take the mick out of his own performance. In some ways I found this commentary to be funnier than the show itself, and to get the best out of the show I would recommend listening to this commentary as well. Parts of the commentary make for riveting listening, particularly when Ricky talks about his previous religious experiences. This seems to be genuinely heartfelt. Even though this commentary is supposed to be light-hearted, at times Ricky talks about some personal aspects of his life and these sections helped me to learn more about him. This extra is definitely the highlight of the disc.

Overall
Ricky Gervais is the new kid on the block in stand-up comedy; his fresh approach and aura are a welcome addition to the stage. Hopefully his Animals show is the first of many and the comedian will be able to take his talents on tour sometime soon. While he may not be the finished article yet, there is no denying the fact that he is a comical genius and has the ability to make a lasting impression in the world of stand-up. It is obvious that Ricky is a fan of the DVD format and has gone for quality rather than quantity with this disc. His commentary is definitely worth listening to, and the documentary is an ideal chance to see the efforts that went into the show. The transfer is also superb, and as expected the soundtrack is functional. This DVD would be a worthy addition to most comedy fans collection.


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