Best Of Comics Unleashed With Byron Allen\
Comedy has always been a regular part of television programming. This refers not to the time honored format of the sit-com but more with the talk show. Many of the early talk shows where hosted by known comics and featured up comers in the field. When variety shows ruled the airwaves they also depended heavily on the talents of stand up comedians. Decades ago the talk show had a very different format. Now one guest comes up and plugs their latest project, show a clip and leaves. Back then guests would stay on the couch, moving down one spot, and interact with the subsequent guests. Instead of the typical five minutes or so of air time guests would be around for a much longer time which enabled to get a lot more out. In 2006 comedian Byron Allen attempted to revive at least part of this long gone format. His show, ‘Comics Unleashed’ would place four comedians together for a round table improvisation. While this was a good idea and well considered the execution falls shot of expectations. There is no way that the conversations are not scripted. The questions are geared to provide a jump off point for the comedian in the prime couch position to bring up well used material from his or her stand up routine. The promotional material for this series pushes that the interviews are ‘unpredictable’. The actuality of the matter is these are well rehearsed jokes.
The show’s host Byron Allen is an affable man. He has the innate sense of humor to carry the role defined by the format of the series. He has an innate comic ability and does what is required here, play straight man for the guest comedians. This series ran in the fall season of 2006 but appears to be cancelled as of this writing. It was produced by Entertainment Studios formerly known as CF Entertainment, Currently you can catch repeated episodes on CBS in the wee hours of Friday or Saturday night. The ‘best of’ DVD is being released through Starz / Anchor Bay. It is a two disc set that includes eight full episodes. The format is fairly standardized with Allen coming out alone to do a monologue in front of the live studio audience. Typically he receives a standing ovation for just walking on stage. There was a time when such an accolade was reserved for after a great performance. Most of the jokes in the monologue are standard faire for a club act. Since this series is intended for regular broadcast channels and syndication there are some rules that seem to apply. First there is no rough or adult language. If something slips out it is beeped. Next, because repeats are the main stay of syndication it is best to avoid topical humor. There are few jokes that poke fun at current events. This ensures the material will not become dated. What happens next does break away from the established norm for this format. Usually guests would be brought out in a certain pecking order. The most notable guest would come on first. This was usually to make sure that if the show was broadcast late at night the most people would be awake to see him. It also made sure that this guest would get the most air time. If the show ran long it would be at the expense of the last, least important guest. Allen brings out all his guests at once. This does allow the most interaction between them but there is still time set aside for each of the four to take the spotlight. To visually demonstrate the ‘equality’ of the guests they each get a chair instead of viding for prime couch space.
Episode One: David Brenner, Dane Cook, Carol Leifer, George Wallace.
This is an odd collection of comedy styles which is typical of the series. Brenner is more of the sad sack comedian either talking about his modest upbringing or politics. George Wallace is an African-American comedian who ironically shares his name with the former governor of Alabama. His jokes are more about some of the strange things in everyday life. Carol Leifer used to date Jerry Seinfeld and was a long time writer for his TV series. Dane Cook is just now reaching his peak and has begun to move from stand up to comedy films.
Episode Two: Howie Mandel, Harland Williams, Kim Coles, Jon Lovitz.
This episode does feature comic better known to most people. Jon Lovitz was a member of Saturday Night live for many years and created characters like the liar. Howie Mandel has be doing stand up for years and appeared in the TV medical drama ‘St. Elsewhere’. He is now very popular as the host of the successful TV game show ‘Deal or No Deal’. Harland Williams’ humor is that of the eternal sad sack. Kim Coles has been a regular fixture of TV sit-coms and stand up.
Episode Three: Brad Garrett, Kevin Pollak, Tommy Davidson, Pauly Shore.
This is an uneven cast that includes a popular TV sit-com star, Garrett, a man who does great impressions, Pollak and a former cast member of ‘In Living Color’. It also includes Shore who is almost legendary for bad comedy.
Episode Four: Jon Lovitz, Rita Rudner, David Brenner, Cedric The Entertainer.
Up until this episode what was featured was in the order their where broadcast. This is the first episode out of order. It is also the first one to have returning guests. Since the overall line up was different most of the material is not a repeat of the previous episodes.
Episode One: Aries Spears, Caroline Rhea, Harland Williams, Howie Mandel
By now there is a group of comedians that seem to be the go to acts for the series. Aries Spears is best known for his years on ‘MAD TV’ and Caroline Rhea was one of the aunts on the TV series ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’.
Episode Two: Dennis Miller, John Roy, Kim Coles, Godfrey Danchimah.
As usual Miller tries to impress with his vocabulary and obtuse references. He does try to dominate here but Cole manages to get in some good material.
Episode Three: Tina Giorgi, Ralphie May, Katt Williams, Don Friesen.
May is best known for this jokes revolving around his more than ample size. Williams usually works with more adult language but is toned down here. Giorgi gets a little sexual with her humor but mostly of the PG-13 variety.
Episode Four: Margaret Cho, Lisa Alvarado, Tammy Pescatelli, Sheryl Underwood.
This is ladies night for the series. Cho is usually very outspoken but tames her act somewhat here. This is also the most ethnically diverse group of the set. The interaction here is the funniest on the DVD. The ladies rift on their backgrounds showing that no matter what ethnic group they are from the jokes are about the same.
The series isn’t bad at all. It is more family friendly that the HBO standup specials or even the late at night versions of Comedy Central. The mix of comedians is usually good and they each get a fair chance at the time on screen. The one thing is this is scripted and that fact is obvious. Other than that it would make for a good thing to play when friends come over.