Tom Simmons is a smart, interesting, funny stand-up comic I very much enjoy and getting to finally see this comic perform is a treat even if I would prefer to see him live. As independent stand-up comedy DVDs go Stand Up Underground is okay. It is a too common case of the production values and camera work not being as good as the comic you are watching. This is the conundrum of comics who produce and release their own material: their production budget is not as rich as their material.
In a world where HBO and Comedy Central DVDs rule it is perhaps unreasonable to expect their kind of slick presentation but it is not unreasonable to be bothered by a series of annoying little details that get in the way of your viewing experience. In its clumsily handled defense Tom Simmons Stand Up Underground shares some of the same flaws I have seen on many other self-release DVDs: fuzzy shots from time to time, camera work that tries to be a little too fancy in its angles, often too dark reaction shots from the audience that sometimes do not match what is going on or seemed punched in in the editing room, and, for some mysterious reason, there is always a weird looking audience member in the front row who distracts the viewer's eyes away from the comic; here it is a woman wearing a birthday girl barrette with glittery stars sticking out of it.
The DVD features some of the same material as Simmons' 2006 comedy CD Stages and a few earlier routines though this is a different performance. He opens with a really good and original bit on the birth of his son and his first very traumatic hours in the world. This routine shows all of this stand-up comic's fortes: basically clean intelligent observational and autobiographical comedy with a dark little edge. He is also very good at political comedy and his segue from the middle-east religious conflicts to what is America's religious value to lotteries is smooth. He also manages to sneak in a good and very funny local reference about the Carolina Hurricanes that allows him to then talk about Katrina.
Particularly dark and funny is the bit on murder suicides and Simmons' solution. The short bit on the history of protests in the United States is really clever but the punch line goes over the audience's head and Simmons quickly moves away from it. Another personal favorite is the bit on passing out chicken pieces on a toothpick and the clever switch to bird flu and its potential antidote.
In the damned if you do and damned if you don't category Stand Up Underground was filmed in Raleigh, North Carolina in a club where all there is is a stage and a brick wall. This gets visually boring after a while but at the same time a busier back wall would get in the way after a while.
Damned if you do however is the occasional cuts away from the stage performance to a radio studio appearance by this comic. I understood the idea and there is a moment in the middle of the DVD where the radio studio bit added to the stage material but being a purist I simply found it annoying. Thankfully, this does not happen too often.
If you are somewhat less punctilious than me Tom Simmons Stand Up Underground is a very enjoyable independent release stand-up comedy DVD. Being the kind of person who would probably complain about the quality of the wine Jesus Christ converted from water, this is a basically good but technically flawed release.
Other Tom Simmons Reviews
Keep Up: Superb fifth comedy CD from solid comic.
Live! McCurdy's Comedy Theater: Tom Simmons follows a newer trend in stand-up comedy, not boxing yourself into one genre of comedy
(One): One) is the first independent comedy cd release by Tom Simmons
Next (One): Tom Simmons is a social and political stand-up comic and his take on things is funny and interesting.
Stages: Fourth and excellent stand-up comedy CD by Tom Simmons