When an independently produced and released comedy DVD has better menu pages and extra features than some of the stuff released by the major studios, you know you might have a winner. When this independent release is by a sketch comedy troupe (Bill Allard, Dan Coffey, Merle Kessler, Leon Martell, Jim Turner) and the reviewer, normally not a major fan of the genre, enjoys watching it you have a winner. Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre 30th Anniversary is sure to please and amuse fans of the genre. Some have said they are the American Monty Python.
The comedy group started in 1975 in Iowa, moved to San Francisco, and,have been around for 30 years. The DVD features their best material, classic funny sketches honed over a long career. Particularly humorous are Outsourcing which features interaction with the audience, Dr. Science (Dan Coffey), an improv skit, the performance poetry like Caffeine Zombie (Leon Martell), the artful and clever Art Show where the theater troupe performs some well-known paintings, Sex Talk featuring Sister Mundi Mister Johnson (Bill Allard), the classic Box about the many uses and interpretations of a simple cardboard box, and, the opening funny bit, Manifesto. Of course, no improvisation is complete without someone taking a stab at Shakespeare -or something that vaguely sounds like Shakespeare-and this is Theatre.
The problem with just about any sketch comedy is they sometimes seem to run too long. Many think this habit was started by the folks at Saturday Night Live and others think it is just the risk you have to be willing to take. A couple of the skits on by the Duck's Breath gang do seem to run too long. This is especially true of Randee of the Redwoods (Jim Turner), a hippie musician, and Mr. Talljars, a bit of a take on Mr. Rogers of sweater vest and Neighborhood fame.
Fortunately, this is probably more a matter of taste than anything else.
The many extras on this independent comedy DVD include Duck Film, an scratchy archive film of the group in 1978, snapshots, short and incomplete takes of early performances of the material reprised for the 30th anniversary, audio commentary by Dr. Science and by the comedy troupe and a few very short audio clips.
Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre will be touring to support their comedy DVD. Catch them if you can and get the DVD. If you can't catch them and like sketch comedy, get the DVD.
Randee of the Redwoods