Review

Make 'Em Laugh(?)

Comedy Double Take

''How do you know when you've had enough comedy?'' Jerry Seinfeld asks his audience during a stand-up routine on the BEST OF THE IMPROV collector's edition (unrated, 360 mins., 2004, Koch Vision). ''You go to a restaurant, you know when you're full. How do you know when you've heard enough jokes?'' Tell you what, Jerry, slide Improv and the FUNNY LADIES collection (unrated, 240 mins., 2003, Koch Vision) into your DVD player, and, 10 hours and 87 comics later, that's enough.

Each set, devoted to late-'80s/early-'90s nightclub acts, is a lot of stand-up. Improv is plucked from A&E's An Evening at the Improv, which aired from 1985 to 1995, and boy, can you tell: big-haired Bill Maher on the Gulf War, Judy Tenuta on Madonna's Sex book, Drew Carey and Max Alexander on Yugos, Ellen DeGeneres on her boyfriend. Great nostalgia, but only okay comedy. (The highlight: Denis Leary's still-hilarious smoking rants.)

Ladies, likewise, jogs memories more than it tickles ribs. The female set features comics you didn't even know were comics -- possibly the most shocking line in both collections belongs to the Ladies voice-over announcer, who segues from DeGeneres to the next act with ''Heh, heh, thanks, Ellen. Next up, the wit and wisdom of Morgan Fairchild!'' Janeane Garofalo's riffs on Under Siege and Melrose Place are the set's acme, but, as with Improv, the best moments are the where-were-they-then glimpses of future greats like Wanda Sykes and Margaret Cho. EXTRAS Improv: selective comic bios (did you know that Jack Gallagher was the face of the Crystal Cream & Butter ads?); Ladies: none.

Originally posted Mar 12, 2004 Published in issue #755 Mar 12, 2004 Order article reprints