This latest Secret Policeman’s Ball, the comedy and musical benefit extravaganza from Amnesty International that tackles the issue of freedom of expression – or, more precisely, the lack thereof in places throughout the world – is the first of these events since they began in London in 1976 to be held outside of the UK.
Captured in high definition at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the show is the usual mix of edgy comedy from big-name comedians from both sides of the pond such as Russell Brand, Jon Stewart, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Silverman, and Ben Stewart. The show even makes time for vignettes by everyone’s favorite animated metal heads, Beavis & Butthead, the cantankerous old duo of Statler & Waldorf from The Muppets, and members of Monty Python, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones. Brand, Izzard, and Silverman issue the three best stand-up routines, and they certainly don’t let down concerning grittiness, especially Silverman who somehow manages to equate be arrested for stalking a boyfriend who rejected her to living in a police state.
The high definition production, encoded in AVC/MPEG-4 at 1080i is middling at best, suffering from some motion artifacts and low light video noise, failing to capture the splendor of Radio City Music Hall at its best.
Even though it is sufficient to convey the mostly dialogue-driven stand-up portion of the show, it’s still a disappointment that only a LPCM 2.0 stereo (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack has been included, especially during the musical performances of Mumford & Sons and Coldplay. Otherwise, the sound works, but it certainly won’t bowl you over.
It’s disappointing again that for this momentous event they give us only this brief behind-the-scenes featurette as an extra and thin booklet with stills and brief liner notes.
- Behind the Scenes (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:08:11)
The Definitive Word
The comedy in The Secret Policeman’s Ball is at such a level, most of the time, it is almost enough to make you forget the real problem with the violent suppression of speech around the world. Still, if you want to watch this, don’t worry, there’s not much preaching, just good ol’ comedy and a great couple of closing bands in Mumford & Sons and Coldplay.
Additional Screen Captures