Richard Lewis Live From Hell is a most appropriately titled 2 comedy CD set because hell it is. What could have been a great concept is just a long and messy series of non-sequiturs. The manic energy this stand-up comedian is famous for (best seen on that great TV sitcom Anything But Love with uber-babe Jamie Lee Curtis) is here but the comedy is not..
Some people have compared this comedian and the great Robin Williams. Perhaps they do have the same kind of manic energy but while Williams' is focused, segues well from topic to topic, and has a point, Richard Lewis is the total opposite. The twenty-seven tracks on the first stand-up comedy CD are from a performance live at The Improv in 1985 rarely go past the 2-minute mark because the subject matter rarely warrants more than a joke or two before the stand-up moves on to something else. The problem is there is no overall thread to any of this material: it is as if Lewis came on stage unprepared without material and just hoped for divine inspiration, a miracle, or the best and none of that happened. Proof is track 17, 2 minutes and 10 seconds where you get stuff on cleanliness, a dog's suicide, cottage cheese and a caesarian. Live From Hell, CD 1 is just a series of non-sequiturs.
CD 2 is based on an interesting concept: Lock Richard Lewis up in a studio (in this case at the headquarters of the Christian Science Monitor in Boston) and have someone ask him questions and sometimes personal questions on which he will riff. Brian Zehme does his best and, according to the liner notes, the second CD is the result of several hours of this improvisation. Again, however, Lewis cannot seem to focus, segue, or make heads or tails of anything. 41 tracks on one CD and none really hit the mark.
Well, at least the cover is cool.