The Amazing Johnathan: Wrong on Every Level Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Rating: Unrated Studio: Paramount Home Video DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007 Run Time: 42 minutes Demetri Martin. Person. Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Rating: Unrated Studio: Paramount Home Video DVD Release Date: September 4, 2007 Run Time: 60 minutes It is one of life’s difficult tasks to qualify exactly how one reacts to stand up comedy. By way of example, the two performances under review here—Demetri Martin and The Amazing Johnathan—are without question different. Martin’s style is reminiscent of Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg, rattling off disconnected, observational one-liners. The Amazing Johnathan relies on a polished sense of chaos to keep the audience off-balance, playing off traditional magical conventions to elicit laughs. Both are excellent in their own way, but explaining much beyond these simple descriptors would ruin the joke. Instead this review will serve as a stirring recommendation for both of these comics, giving them context. But leave no doubt—both are hilarious and well worth your time and money. First, The Amazing Johnathan. Equal parts lousy comic and lousy magician, The Amazing Johnathan makes looking lousy seem easy. Purposefully scattershot, Johnathan’s act features botched magic and card tricks, a goofy supporting cast, and audience interaction. Showcasing the titular host’s affability by riffing on the audience and his crew, this special is utterly hilarious. Part stand-up routine and part commentary on the nature and expectations of both stand-up and magic, the bits require the audience to be paying attention, in much the same way the audience needs to focus to appreciate magic. The unprepared viewer would likely wonder if The Amazing Johnathan was serious. He is not, and that is why he is so very funny. Demetri Martin manages to deconstruct our perceptions and preconceptions through simple one-line observations. Martin’s intellectual style often runs far ahead of the audience, their response delayed as the truth of Martin’s statements sinks in. Instead of going into depth on a topic, Demetri jumps between topics with loose association, reminiscent of the late night talk shows for which Martin once wrote—he began his career as a writer for the Conan O’Brien show. Mixing in musical performances and strange skits, Martin appeals to the late-night-yet-highbrow crowd. Both main events are one-hour specials from Comedy Central. Well-produced and visually interesting, there is nothing to dissuade me from recommending these specials. Video: Presented in their original 4:3 broadcast aspect ratio, these specials look fantastic. Colors are vivid and the lines are clear. The interlacing problem often found on standard definition DVD sets is minimized by the lack of fast cuts, further improving the already solid video. Audio: Limited by the nature of the source, the dialogue track is nothing spectacular. Laughs come through the surround track and little else, though they do not immerse the audience quite as thoroughly as I would have liked. The primary channels, used to disperse the routine, come through clean and loud. My criticisms are minor—these tracks sound good. Extras: Both features include the half-hour Comedy Central Presents special that introduced these comedians to the world at large. The Amazing Johnathan special features a lot of redundant material, whereas Martin’s lays the groundwork for his future material to payoff. I paid two dollars for each of these on iTunes, and am glad to have them included here as a bonus. The Amazing Johnathan’s set continues with some deleted scenes of various routines and the continuation of his harassment of the poor victim who joins him on stage. The set concludes with a copy of his brief appearance on Premium Blend, including the true identity of assistant Psychic Tanya. Martin’s also features deleted scenes and alternate takes, since the special was culled from two separate performances. Perhaps the most interesting idea was to include a commentary track by Martin and various members of his family. The group reminisces about Martin’s origins and the foibles of creating a special. It is a fascinating peek into the nature of stand-up comedy. There are a few additional performances from early in Martin’s career at a set of comedy clubs around the nation, which show how far Martin has grown. More extras than I ever expected, this set is packed full. Overall: An excellent value on a quality set of DVDs, I cannot recommend these Comedy Central specials highly enough.