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Zach Galifianakis ‘live’ DVD turns out to be anything but

Even for a fan of “alternative” comedian Zach Galifianakis, his new DVD, “Live at the Purple Onion,” due in stores March 6, will prove to be a frustrating exercise.

Director and editor Michael Blieden muddles the simple assignment of this comedy performance documentary by keeping in too many passages where Zach is riffing with audiences, and not doing so very compellingly because it just isn’t his strong suit. It’s surprising, considering Blieden’s direction of the cult favorite film “Melvin Goes To Dinner” with Bob Oedenkirk was so masterful, and perfectly modulated the story to its climactic surprise.

But here, Blieden captures Zach’s comedic genius only in scattershot fashion, seemingly only arbitrarily luckily including the better pieces of Zach’s material. This becomes all the more evident when one finds better bits in the extras portion of the DVD.

One portion of “Live at the Purple Onion” finds Zach picking on a staid older audience member sitting in the front row of tables at the show. Zach repeatedly returns to the refrain of people like him and other things “messing up the DVD.” At one point in the “bonus features,” Zach jokes about putting out a DVD with 10 minutes of his act and three hours of bonus features, and that isn’t too far off what this DVD is, unfortunately.

It’s not that Zach can’t deliver a focused performance from start to finish either. This reviewer has seen him do it, not just in a club like on this DVD, but in a large hall no less. But considering the liner notes of this DVD say the performance here was filmed during shows in June 2005, and this is being released more than a year later, it seems like Blieden and company had too much extra time to play with the material, and a result chopped it up (with other “behind the scenes” segments as well) to the point that it doesn’t serve Galifianakis well at all.

Zach’s act depends on the succession of deadpan thoughts he delivers, often while noodling on a piano to give it a confessional or beatnik poet type of atmosphere. Instead of living up to its title and presenting a live document of this, “Purple Onion” disappoints by doing the exact opposite.




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