Directed by Jason Woliner, Rusty Cundieff
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Running Time: 160 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 26.99
Release Date: March 4, 2008
Review Date: February 22, 2008
I’m not usually an MTV kind of guy. It’s not a channel I visit with regularity, so recently when a series of DVDs based on MTV broadcasts have come my way to review, I’ve been introduced to the sometimes funny and often raunchy world of Jackass and Rob & Big. The latest in the MTV hit parade is Human Giant, a sketch comedy show which at its best brings to mind a kind of smorgasbord mixing the running sketches of SCTV with the in-episode running gags of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Much to my surprise, the series is fall-down funny and very addictive.
Three excellent court jesters oversee the comic mayhem: Ron Huebel, Paul Scheer, and Aziz Ansari. They play a wide range of characters during the eight episodes from the first season, and while not every sketch or every persona reaches the highest level of hilarity, kudos to them for trying hard every time out. I’ve found the sketches here of much higher and more consistent quality than those on recent seasons of Saturday Night Live or MadTV. Of course, those programs have more time to fill (Human Giant runs about 20 minutes for each episode without the commercials and promotions) and more episodes to produce, so naturally their hit-miss ratio is much lower. Still, Human Giant reaches its target’s bull’s eye a high percentage of the time.
Every episode features new sketches and gags, but a few sketches run through the length of the first season (though not in every episode; a good plan so they don‘t wear out their welcomes so quickly), and they’re all worth the wait: “The Illusionators” (two magicians who perform stunts of baffling and often surreal dexterity), “Shutterbugs” (two high pressure agents who handle kid talent and treat them like scum), “Crime Lords” (think the three deadly Kryptonian criminals in Superman II), “Product Recalls” (public service announcements about defective items), “Cliff Tarpey, Astronaut” (adventures of a combative astronaut), and “Swindle Tips” (a slick con man swindles the unexpected). Also impressive are the elaborate make-up jobs necessary for some of the gags to work and the unusual amount of special effects needed in some of the skits.
I won’t spoil the surprises by mentioning any names, but if you’re a TV fan, you might be surprised to see some character actors from such shows as Reno 911, Rescue Me, and ‘24’ make surprise appearances in effective cameo roles.
Though the packaging claims full screen presentations, the episodes are actually presented here in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic letterbox. They feature sharp pictures and excellent color (studio work does look sharper than location filming oftentimes), but the lack of anamorphic enhancement causes some flashing on plaid fabrics. Each episode is divided into chapters representing the various skits in the episode. A chapter listing is included with each show so the viewer may select individual sketches rather than watching the entire episode if he chooses.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix gets the job done but is strictly a no-frills affair. The dialog is placed in the center channel and is easily discernable.
Every episode contains a commentary by the three stars of the show and several of the episodes contain an additional commentary with the guys and special guests, sometimes the director or producer of the episode and sometimes guest stars on the episode. All of the commentaries are laugh-filled reminiscences of working on the skits, and the guys often veer away from the content of the skit and joke about other things in their lives.
The second disc in the set is wholly comprised of bonus material running almost three hours.
“Best of Human Giant 24 Hour Marathon” features 75 minutes of condensed comic and music footage from the guys’ 24-hour marathon on MTV in order to garner for themselves a second season of episodes. Will Arnett, John Krasinski, and other familiar faces dot the hilarious shenanigans in this marvelous bonus. It’s presented in 4:3.
27 deleted scenes, at least one from each episode, provide additional hilarity for 91 minutes. Many of these skits are as funny as anything that was in the aired programs. All are in non-anamorphic letterbox.
There are two unaired “Shutterbug” skits that are as hilarious as the ones that turned up in the program. They’re in non-anamorphic letterbox and run 8 minutes.
Two home movies showing early sketch work on “Shutterbugs” (in a comedy club) and “The Illusionators” are presented in rough looking 4:3 footage.
Season Two Preview features three hilarious sketches from the upcoming season. “The Illusionators” are back, and it looks like a new running gag skit may join the others: “Crime Time” which reenacts real crimes with dire consequences. All three sketches are presented again in non-anamorphic letterbox.
A jokey series of crew dedications to those members who “lost their lives” during the making of the show’s first season are all interrupted by promos for the new season. If you pause the video before the interruptions come on, the rolling script on each “deceased” person is very funny.
A season one trailer with some choice bits from the eight season one episodes runs 2 minutes.
The disc also features previews for the season DVD sets of Rob & Big and The Sarah Silverman Program.
Hilarious and meant for adults, Human Giant is a terrific sketch comedy show with engaging actors and some really nutty ideas carried off to perfection. Anamorphic enhancement of the episodes would really have classed up the set, but otherwise, it’s a funny showcase for three very talented comedians. The new season begins on MTV on March 11, 2008, at 11 p.m.