Mark Steel - Vive La Revolution  [DVD]
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For most of us, the French Revolution has been reduced to jokes about Marie-Antoinette, guillotines and the Scarlet Pimpernel. But for Mark Steel, the French Revolution was one of the most inspirational moments in human history - a moment when ordinary people changed the world and became extraordinary. It deserves better jokes than that. In this revolutionary new DVD, Steel banishes stuffiness from history, telling us what happened in France between the storming of the Bastille and the rise of Napoleon, bringing to life the people who made them happen. Mark Steel has been doing stand up comedy since he was a boy, and is a noted author and columnist. When he is not touring, he is broadcasting TV and Radio shows to the nation, always employing his unique humour and intelligent dissection of human society. VIVE LA REVOLUTION is an uproariously serious work of history - brilliantly funny and insightful, it puts the peculiarity of individual people back at the centre of the story. ''Steel is bolshy, beligerent and bloody hilarious.'' Francis Wheen
Steel mixes jokes and facts brilliantly --The Times
If the revolution was to be led by Mark Steel, it might not be such a terrible idea. The trouble is that his sense of humour is so good he'd be shot in the first week. --John O'Farrell
Smart, comic non-fiction is clearly the future --The Observer
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His angle is that by pointing out the mistakes of our past, we somehow won't keep on revisiting them. There's a sort of subtle subtext running through each gag - surely we will eventually annihilate ourselves on the altar of our own stupidity - as real evil ultimately wants all of God's creation to do - unless we genuinely learn from the painful lessons of history. It's smart stuff...and you'll find yourself agreeing a lot of the time as you watch it.
He isn't exactly Lee Evans nor Billy Connelly - comedians people naturally warm to - instead Steel sets out to win your affections through intelligence and wit. And this he pretty much does. The French Revolution - The Nazis - The Inquisition - it's all up for grabs and his observations are very, very clever.
Having said that - and although he avoids getting too preachy (which is a hard thing to do with this sort of comedy) - its sheer length means that it does overstay its welcome a bit. But I laughed a lot - and felt educated too.
A different type of funny and for all the right reasons. Recommended.
The second disc contains outtakes from the original show, plus comedy sketches with Jeremy Hardy and some of his lectures. The review may be too late to influence a Christmas purchase but It is recommended as a disc for the discerning comedic viewer as well as a nice give and stunning value for main content length and extras disc.
This particular show though is much better than I thought it would be, with some genuine laugh out loud moments and the occasional bit of inspired comedy. It's not a five star show because the show suffers towards the end - it could have done with being about 20 minutes shorter.
He deserves kudos for injecting some more literate content matter into standup, managing to link together topical political humour within the larger context of the French revolution. It's not comedy genius - he's not a Bill Hicks or a Eddie Izzard, but you'd do worse than to check this DVD.
While it always runs the risk of coming across as the college smartarse lampooning his history lectures, it's biggest flaw is that neither side of the equation gets to flourish as well as they should: at times the history gets in the way of the comedy while at others the need to insert a few more laughs means the history isn't as detailed as it could be - and usually just when it's starting to get interesting. As a result, it often seems light on both the history and the comedy, never making its mind up which way to go: while he gets laughs by drawing parallels between Marie Antoinette and Princes Diana, amusing ideas like the 1812 Overture inspiring a wave of driveby cannonings feel like leftover gags from his Beethoven lecture (part of which is included as an extra on the disc) to flag up a slow patch rather than being an essential organic part of the show. But perhaps a bigger problem is the extended running time, which alternately makes it feel padded out or rushed in a way that Steel's superior radio and TV history lectures never did. Yet there's still enough to keep you watching and smiling occassionally, but it's perhaps best viewed as a one-period crammer with one of the more popular teachers in college - you probably won't be bored, but you'll probably not get as much out of it as you could with another guide through the material.
There's a good selection of extras (though not enough to justify a second disc): 12 minutes of deleted material, extracts from his TV lectures on Thomas Paine, Beethoven and Napoleon and a 33-minute conversation between Steel and Jeremy Hardy.
Comes with a second disc containing feature extras.
The picture quality is poor though, so I had to take one star away, hence 4 instead of 5
While being a good laugh it's not all it promises and is worth a watch just or a good laugh.
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