Def Comedy Jam Classics: Martin Lawrence contains a few hearty laughs in between heaps of “f-this, f-that, f-to the point where it is no longer a curse word and becomes simply an overused adjective” and sexually explicit material. Many of the comedians featured on this disc seem to be delivering material purely for shock value before an audience that does their best to encourage. As a result, most of the comedy lacks a genuine feel, and that includes the offerings we get from Mr. Lawrence himself. That’s n…t to say I found the release a total waste. Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker show up in early turns proving that funny doesn’t have to be a learned trait. These men were just as strong on the mic then as they are now. While their material sticks to the tried-and-true, sex-and-cursing formula, their delivery stands out from the rest of the pack, causing them to come off more as innovators than copycats.
The same cannot be said for every other comic on the disc, including D.L. Hughley, Garfield, Maestro, and comedienne Chocolate. Most are doing their worst impressions of an early Eddie Murphy routine, and the stacked audience hoots and howls as if they are being treated to the real deal. Ultimately, I can see two realities in watching this release: one, why so many comics didn’t make it; two, why Chappelle and Tucker did.
The 15-year old image has held up well, easily apparent in the fact that HBO hasn’t done a thing to improve upon the transfer, and it’s still imminently watchable. Shot on video in 1.33:1 full frame, Def Comedy Jam looks as it did at the time, and that’s all fans can ask for from these obscure vault materials. Colors may have faded a tad – it’s anyone’s guess – but I detected no grain or video imperfections in the two half-hour episodes available.
Like the old song says, voices carry; consequently, you may wish to keep tight reigns on the volume. I was surprised by just how powerful this 2.0 track was. Each comedian sounds like he or she could wake up the house, even at the lowest audible volume. It doesn’t sound like a new track, just an incredibly well preserved one.
Commentary tracks are available for both episodes, though neither seems to serve a purpose. I watched nearly one whole act without the participants uttering a word. Perhaps more biographical information (as well as “Where Are They Now” tidbits) could have fleshed out this portion of the release.
Though I’d never seen an episode of Def Comedy Jam till recently, I could have sworn I knew every routine before it was delivered. While many fans may point to the year DCJ was released compared to its inevitable imitators, my argument against it is not that I have already heard this type of humor on more recent programs – no, my major complaint is that each comic feels like a cheap copy of the last WITHIN THE SAME EPISODE. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, these episodes were flattering themselves halfway through. Another gripe: with only two episodes available, one must ask, “What is the point?” Wait for a set, or avoid all together. Earth to HBO – This isn’t VHS. You can fit more than one hour of material on a disc.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries