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Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore DVD Review

Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore (2013) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore
Special & DVD Details

Original Airdate: April 2, 2013 / Running Time: 60 Minutes (Extended) / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Performer: Kristen Schaal / Special Appearances: Kurt Braunohler, Eugene Mirman, Chloe Noelle / Directors: Ryan Polito; John Lee (short film) / Executive Producers: Kristen Schaal, Rick Austin, Mike Rothman, Isaac Horne

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
DVD Release Date: April 2, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Kristen Schaal has quickly become one of the most ubiquitous actresses in comedy today. Like many, I first discovered Schaal in her role on HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" as the folk duo's overly devoted one and only fan. It's a character easily misplayed, but Schaal sells it with her unique, unpredictable rhythms.
Her efforts not only were a crucial part of one of this century's most entertaining television shows, they also helped her get noticed in the industry.

Nowadays, you can't stop seeing her or hearing her voice in major motion pictures. Her roles have included Trixie the Triceratops in Toy Story 3 and Susana the secretary in Dinner for Schmucks. She's also turned up in The Muppets, Get Him to the Greek, Valentine's Day, and Shrek Forever After. Meanwhile, though "Conchords" sadly ended after just two outstanding seasons, Schaal is still all over the airwaves with gigs like a recurring presence on "30 Rock" and lead voiceover parts in the ongoing cartoons "Bob's Burgers" and "Gravity Falls." There are also frequent appearances on "The Daily Show" as the senior women's issues correspondent and Schaal even wrote a comedy book with her husband.

Before all that, Schaal was a stand-up comedian. She still is, in fact, and earlier this week, she got her first hour-long Comedy Central special plainly titled Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore. Mere hours after its post-April Fool's Day midnight premiere, the special hit DVD in an extended and uncensored presentation.

At San Francisco's The Fillmore, Kristen Schaal provides concrete evidence that her apartment is haunted: ghost poops (Styrofoam packing peanuts).

Running one hour on the dot and about eighteen minutes longer than it did on cable, this special was taped June 2012 at the titular small, historic San Francisco auditorium. Schaal turned 35 in January and she looks her age, but her voice and mannerisms make her seem much younger. Her childlike quality extends to her attire, as she wears a bright red and pink dress, briefly topped by a sparkly silver jacket she "stole from a genie."

A Comedy Central special is no venue for a kid, but Schaal's awkward innocence isn't betrayed by an abundance of graphic content. Still, she doesn't shy from sex and, despite what she says, it does get racier than a little romantic triangle puppet show she performs with a ladle, a pot, and a pot cover. There's also pantomime and talk of genitalia.
It's a nearby body part -- the taint -- that inspires not one but two enthusiastic monologues (Schaal's response to The Vagina Monologues). Those dirty bits seem to draw the biggest response from a crowd unusually diverse in age and gender, but I'd call them the low point of a fairly diverting evening.

Shortly after the halfway point, the special becomes less a traditional stand-up act and more akin to performance art. Schaal convincingly pretends to stumble through some feeble jokes, repeatedly mispronouncing "airplane" and becoming increasingly preoccupied with getting a drink of water. She disappears, leaving Kurt Braunohler, the old friend who introduced her, to stumble through interaction with the audience unclear if they're being had. Schaal returns on stage to supply more surrealness: note cards of decreasing size with "autobiographical" material, a young girl heckler comes onstage and shows Schaal with impeccable timing and material just how easy comedy is, and there's a bizarre use of an Omnichord, an electronic instrument from the 1980s.

Aided by red glasses, Kristen Schaal does an impression of Sally Jesse Raphael. Kristen Schaal demonstrates she's qualified to assist magicians in an audition performance stretch of "Live at the Fillmore."

Schaal is crushed to find her big final number is ruined when her horse runs off, leaving behind his saddle and a note that he's exiting show business. Fortunately, Braunohler gives her backstage motivation and onstage accompaniment to finish the performance on a delightfully awkward, repetitive fashion that segues into the strange filmed note on which the special ends. Such staged absurdist bits provide the special with a number of its most entertaining moments (that, a bit on her apartment's ghost problem, and an entertaining audition to be a magician's assistant). Perhaps they are not to be unexpected from someone whose first honors were Best Alternative Comedian and the Andy Kaufman Award. Not every viewer is bound to get or appreciate the joke (shockingly, even a Hollywood Reporter critic has been fooled), especially when you consider the gap between a Schaal fan and the typical Comedy Central stand-up viewer. But it's a mostly enjoyable hour that presumably was even stronger edited down to make room for commercials. Unfortunately but characteristically, the DVD doesn't offer that tauter cut as a viewing option.

VIDEO and AUDIO

DVD treats Live at the Fillmore to an average standard definition presentation. The video quality is not the highest, simply due to the nature of the production. Sound is an unremarkable Dolby Stereo 2.0 mix. You don't watch stand-up comedy for the wow factor and it's understandable that these types of releases don't sell enough to justify a Blu-ray edition. But that doesn't make this special look as good on DVD as it did in HD broadcast (ignoring intrusive onscreen graphics, of course). English SDH subtitles are kindly provided.

In her "Comedy Central Presents" episode, relationship drama interrupts Kristen Schaal's one-woman show "Anne Boleyn On Fire." Kristen Schaal portrays an abandoned mattress in her segment of "John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

For a Comedy Central special DVD, this one has a good amount of bonus material. It begins with "Comedy Central Presents: Kristen Schaal" (21:05), a 2009 installment of the channel's long-running half-hour stand-up comedian showcase. It compares to the new special, with Schaal again struggling, being ditched by an animal assistant (in this case, a bird), and getting some encouragement from her comedy partner Braunohler.
Flight of the Conchords - Sketch Heads Poster [11x17] Flight of the Conchords - Eat Sleep Folk Poster [11x17]
There is some personal humiliation which spills into Schaal's premiere of her one-woman show Anne Boleyn On Fire. There's also a caterpillar friend's diary and a dance with George Washington.

Next, we get Schaal's performance on a 2010 episode of "John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show" (17:03). She talks about New York, being a mother (which she's not), and how her parents met in the Persian Gulf War complete with an appearance and re-enactment by "them." She also reveals her playwright skills by portraying a mattress she found on the street.

Jon Stewart's body language suggests he's not in agreement with senior women's issues correspondent Kristen Schaal's distinction between single and married female voters in this "Daily Show" clip. The DVD's chapters menu gives you a good idea of the content you get in "Kristen Schaal: Live at the Fillmore."

The disc draws to a close with three of Schaal's many appearances on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." In the first and oldest (hence the 1.33:1 aspect ratio) clip (4:53), Schaal brings out a cougar (as in a randy older woman) like an animal talk show guest and invents names for men who date down in age. In the second (5:16), she strikes a Stephen Colbert-esque tone as she promotes legislature limiting federal abortion funding to forcible rape victims, as opposed to rape-esque victims. Finally (6:38), she explains the differences in mentality between the single woman and married woman voters, having experience as both of those.

The basic silent, static menus reformat the front and rear cover artwork to fill 16:9 screens. There are no inserts within the Eco-Box keepcase.

A young heckler (Chloe Noelle) crashes the stage and shows Kristen Schaal how to do stand-up comedy in the surreal second half of "Live at the Fillmore."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Kristen Schaal's Fillmore special amuses for around half of its runtime, which is better than par for the course, but a little less than I hoped for, having enjoyed Schaal in her many appearances. Her fans will obviously want to check this out for the rare opportunity to get more than just a supporting dose of this comedienne, though it most likely isn't something to frequently revisit. While the feature presentation is ordinary (and I wish the broadcast edit became a standard inclusion), kudos to Comedy Central for doing a good job of gathering relevant extras from within their library to complement the special. That makes the low-priced DVD more attractive than the streaming rental that otherwise might make more sense to you.

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Reviewed April 4, 2013.



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