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The comics on display here are legendary, but this set as a whole leaves a bit to be desired....
E1 / 720 Minutes / 1982-1996 / Unrated / Street Date: October 8, 2013
A TV-on-DVD set like this one serves one purpose: it takes you back to the good old days when stand-up comics of a certain era were just getting started. This may be an over-simplification – folks like Leslie Nielsen and Billy Crystal who show up here had been around the block a time or two already – but these excerpts offer a fascinating glimpse into a comedy era that has long since passed us by.
And as a retro throwback, it’s fun, but only in fits and spurts. This Best of an Evening at the Improv set doesn’t present entire episodes of the show, instead offering up a couple DVDs worth of snippets from comics and performers, many of whom are quite recognizable indeed. Jerry Seinfeld is here, and even folks like Milton Berle, Robert Townsend, and Bill Maher show up to do a set.
Yet while this release offers an ocean of nostalgia – “Look at all the mullets in the audience!” – even viewers who consider themselves superfans of the era might have trouble getting through a lot of this. Every once in a while, a stand-up comic comes to screen and absolutely nails it, but even performers like Paul Reiser and Jim Carrey who have clearly established reputations for themselves as icons of the genre only connect some of the time here on An Evening at the Improv. It’s great as a time machine, but only so-so as a disc-by-disc edition.