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MICHAEL WINSLOW:  COMEDY SOUND SLAPDOWN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Michael Winslow
Director:  Richard Pabis
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Image Entertainment
Features:  None
Length:  59 Minutes
Release Date:  February 25, 2003

Film **

I only had one question while watching Comedy Sound Slapdown:  when did Michael Winslow become such a buffoon?

Winslow is, of course, the man who made a name for himself as a human sound effects machine.  His remarkable arsenal of noises and voices propelled him from the standup stage to worldwide fame in the Police Academy movies, and back to the comedy circuit, where he's remained a popular draw for many years.

I've considered myself a fan of his even before Police Academy hit the screen…I saw him on a local program once just ripping his sounds left and right, doing his inimitable Led Zeppelin impression, and even answering the challenge of providing all the sounds for some silent film clips right there on the spot.  The man was amazing!

Having followed his standup over the years, I was really looking forward to his Comedy Sound Slapdown DVD, only to find myself wondering if this was even the same comic I had liked for so long.  Oh, his sound impressions are unmistakable.  But where were the laughs?

I had never considered it before, but now I'm forced to ask if Michael Winslow was ever funny to begin with.  His whole act consists of making our jaws drop with his sounds, which he does…but that's not humor.  When he makes sounds, he amazes.  When he tells jokes, he's terrible…his idea of funny consists of a painful string of making fun of hotel names (“the Hyass, the Motel 7.8, the Budgesmell…”) which goes ON and ON.  THEN he follows up by making fun of chain stores in the same way (“Wal-Fart, K-Fart…”).  Somebody desperately needed to pull the plug.

His best moment is an impression of the first time you get pulled over by the cops when you're a teen.  It works mostly because of a radio flipping bit in the middle, where he does impressions of recognizable popular tunes…again, more amazing than funny, but it's a bit I don't quibble with.

But for the most part, the comedy (or lack thereof) is painful.  Even worse is his sound operator, who tries to put reverb or delay on his voice during key parts…the two are frequently out of sync with somewhat embarrassing results.

His finale is also a mixed bag, doing his “Michael Winslow Experience” bit with a full band.  His impressions of Zeppelin and Hendrix are absolutely impeccable, but his Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison leave a lot to be desired.

My advice to Mr. Winslow:  your sounds are amazing, and make you a truly one-of-a-kind artist.  But learn the difference between what's funny and not, and you'll really have an unstoppable show on your hands.  The sound of applause will be much sweeter to your ears than the sound of people exiting the theatre.

Video **

Not much to speak of in the video department…this is a simple comedy concert filmed on video.  It has the normal inherent problems with the medium, including some streaks, some softness, some grain here and there.  Basically, it looks fine for what it is…by nature, it doesn't require a whole lot more.

Audio *1/2

The audio is problematic, and given Image's reputation, I will place the blame on how it was recorded rather than how it was translated to DVD.  Early on, the sound is surprisingly quiet, but later on, it picks up, with a few level drops here and there…somebody fell asleep at the mixing board.  Some background noise is evident from time to time, too, probably being picked up somehow by Winslow's mike and preserved for all posterity on disc.  There's no trouble understanding his monologues or his sounds, so it's still a workable soundtrack…just decidedly sub-standard.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

As a professed fan of Michael Winslow, I find I can't recommend his latest title.  Comedy Sound Slapdown has the sound part right, but not the comedy, and hour is just too long to spend with a comic that doesn't make you laugh, regardless of how amazing his voice talents may be.