George Carlin: Complaints & Grievances

(2004)--There are a lot of comedians taking advantage of the trails blazed by Lenny Bruce (see story, page 64), who was the test case for the limits of freedom in Freedom of Speech. But for all the professional joke tellers who say "fuck" and "cocksucker" in public, few back the expletives with the sort of intelligence used by comic George Carlin. Recently released on DVD, Carlin's 2001 HBO concert serves as a reminder that he is one of the funniest men to stalk the stage. Filmed in November, not long after 9/11, Carlin offers up the same sort of biting humor that has been his trademark for the better part of four decades. He starts out the concert addressing the terrorist attacks, but mostly as a formality. To not talk about about it, says Carlin, would be like ignoring the elephant sitting on the couch in your living room. But after getting the timely stuff out of the way, Carlin launches into a tirade that mainly covers the people he'd like to see killed. Fans of the comedian won't be disappointed, but those unfamiliar with the veteran should know that this is not Carlin at his best (although he is still really funny). The concert hits its peak, however, near the end, and Carlin delivers one of his best routines as he talks about how to do away with the Ten Commandments.

Richard Pryor: Live! In Concert (1979)--You can argue all you want about who the funniest comedian of all time is, but unless you say it's Richard Pryor, you are dead wrong. In this brilliant film that sets the bar for all other comedy shows, Pryor delivers some of his best material. This is Pryor at his absolute best, while he was still nuts but before he tried to kill himself by setting himself on fire. The comic's incredible ability to give life to anything he's talking about--be it his pet monkey with a proclivity for humping Pryor's ear, to the car he shot, or his own heart trying to kill him--is part of what makes him so funny.


Ed Wood (1993)--Tim Burton is a director best known for his incredible sense of visual style and his inability to actually tell a good story. The biggest exception to that rule is Burton's film inspired by the career of legendary director Ed Wood, popularly considered the worst filmmaker of all time. Johnny Depp gives one of the best performances of his career as the cross-dressing Wood, whose films include the abysmal Glen or Glenda and the infamous Plan Nine from Outer Space. Martin Landau gives an Oscar-winning performance as faded film star Bela Lugosi, who, near the end of his life, was befriended by Wood. Finally released on DVD after numerous delays, the special edition of Ed Wood includes deleted scenes, an audio commentary with Burton, Landau and others, and several documentary featurettes.