"Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show" DVD Review
May 27, 2008 by Zach Demeter
For those around the live comedy circuit in 2006 there was no bigger touring act than Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, a thirty-day and thirty-city tour that took Vaughn and friends across the backbone of the United States. With sold-out shows every night, the tour proved successful not only for Vaughn but for the relatively unknown comedians that were part of the act. After the tour the four comedians all went on to more successful careers.
The “film” version of Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show focuses less on the standup (although there is plenty of that shown) and more on the four men doing it. Don’t let the title fool you; Vaughn is present but we rarely see him on stage so the majority of the film falls on the shoulders of four up and coming comics: Sebastian Maniscalco, Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo and Bret Ernst. The four comedians got a taste of what it was like to play in front of big crowds and get standing ovations as well as to perfect their craft and performances—even when the audience doesn’t find it necessary for them to do so.
Having not seen the trailer before watching the DVD (I like going in as “fresh” as I can to films), I expected this to just be a recorded special of one of their nights of standup. Instead I got a more documentary style extra which, as stated above, is really more about the aforementioned comics who you’ll have never heard of before watching this “movie” (unless you went to one of their sold out shows, at least). For several parts of the film the piece is never about the comedy and instead about the journey the four men are going through to get their chance in the limelight.
Those expecting to see Vaughn on stage will be disappointed after the first half hour; aside from presenting them, he’s rarely the focus when the cameras are rolling and instead we see him in mentoring positions for the budding comics. A misheard reaction from the crowd by Caparulo leads to Vaughn telling him to stop focusing on single members and rather take in the general reaction of the crowd. Quite a lot of the first half of the film shows clips of bad crowd reactions or flub ups by the comics, but as it goes on we see them grow accustomed to their surroundings.
While I know it sells DVDs, it’s rather misleading to have Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Dwight Yoakam and Justin Long on the packaging so prominently—we see so very little of them that it’s a disservice to the rest of the comics you are going to be seeing. Still there are some humorous bits with the aforementioned stars, especially one between Long and producer Peter Billingsley (yes…Ralphie). Billingsley’s reaction to one of Long’s pranks is so violent at first that you’re shocked to see him lash out so harshly, but it all ends in a giant round of laughter from everyone on the bus.
A lot of funniest things in this film are the behind-the-scenes elements, especially when we get to know the four comedians. Not to say the stage show wasn’t entertaining; there were plenty of humorous jokes and routines that each of the comedians had that had me laughing and smiling, but I can’t say I was ever hurting from laughter while watching this. With some of the focus thrown onto Katrina survivors and the benefit shows the guys did for them, the documentary took a somber tone on a few occasions and honestly I was already used to this not being a straight up stand-up special that I was game for anything. It’s almost uneven how unpredictable the film was, but it’s not a real knock against it; it’s kept fresh and remains interesting.
I think the greatest thing about Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show was how it wasn’t afraid to show the four comedians at their weakest or most vulnerable. The parents of each one of the comics was interviewed and involved with this production and we seven saw Caparulo return home to his family at one point in the film. There’s a good amount of backstory to each one of them given and the film really gives us just enough from each one to be interested in where their careers are going (we get a bit of that information at the end of the film).
Overall it’s not what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. Plenty of jokes to enjoy throughout the production and I got to see some of the funnier comics I’ve seen get their start. Hopefully Vaughn can continue this series and continue to hand-pick some of the funniest unknowns out there. Recommended.
If you thought that there’d be little in terms of extras to watch on this disc you’d be completely wrong. While the DVD comes in non-glittery standard amaray case without any slipcover; inside the casing is a Picturehouse brochure as well as the disc itself, sporting disc art similar to the cover. Menus are animated with audio and are simple and easy to navigate.
Video and audio for this film are respectable and what you’d expect to find on a recent release. The 5.1 audio is underutilized except during the stand up sequences where some crowd chatter gets tossed around, but for the most part it’s all front-focused, as you’d expect. The widescreen 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is clean and clear, with a bit of compression showing up occasionally but overall a decent picture; it lacks sharpness in some cases, but the documentary style storytelling isn’t exactly known for field depth and clarity.
The extras start off with a pair of commentaries, both of which are as funny as you’d expect them to be. First up is producer Vince Vaughn and executive producer Peter Billingsly on a track together and while we saw little interaction between them in the film, we get a real sense of their friendship and camaraderie here on the track. They joke around with one another but also bring up some cool technical information, such as finding the right crew and the hectic scheduling of thirty cities in thirty days. The second commentary houses Ari Sandel and comedians Bret Ernst, Sebastian Maniscalco and Ahmed Ahmed and, as can be expected with three of the films comedic stars, can get quite hilarious at times. Director Sandel was obviously quiet during the production of the film so it was interesting to hear from him when he chimes in, but the three comedy stars take center stage on this track and you can tell they formed a heck of a friendship over the course of the thirty days.
Moving on we have a ton of bonus material to wade through, over an hour’s worth, so set aside some time for the extras on this one if you plan on listening to both commentaries as well. The first set of extras is the non-descript “Bonus Material” area on the menu which has ten different segments (53:57). This area has interviews with the actors about their lives, sketches they perform and what inspired them. There’s also a slew of unused behind-the-scenes footage shown here and it’s almost a whole other film in of itself…albeit a bit out of order and haphazard.
“The Tour” (5:52) is the crew talking about this tour came together, “The Making of” (6:01) shows off some more behind-the-scenes footage of prep before shows and the like, “Behind the Scenes” (9:47) is just what it sounds like and finally the theatrical trailer (2:30) for the film. It’s a nice mix of extras here, especially with the dual commentaries, so if you enjoyed the film there’s plenty to watch.
Overall I can see how critical reception to this was a bit weak, but if you know what you’re in for before going in, it’s a really well done and entertaining documentary (I really don’t want to call it a “film”). There are laughs and when you get this kind of inside look into the start of four up and coming comics premieres on stage in huge venues, it’s kind of a cool treat. Recommended.
Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show arrives on DVD on June 3rd.