STUDIO:  A&E Home Video
MSRP: $19.95
RUNNING TIME:  55 Minutes
• Bonus sketches: ‘Elementary Dating’ , ‘Guys after the Game,’ and ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’
• Rowan Atkinson Biography and Filmography

The Pitch

It’s a minimalist take on Rowan’s strengths with a highly supportive live audience.

The Humans

Rowan Atkinson with some assistance from Angus Deayton


Rowan raised the stakes with his impressive Judi Dench…

The Nutshell

Rowan Atkinson Live! Is a repackaged series of sketches that originally was shot in 1991.  Touted as a ‘rare’ live performance, it contains a handful of sketches showcasing Rowan’s ability to perform physical slapstick comedy as well as verbal.

..but Angus ended the competition with his remarkable Charles Nelson Reilly.

The Lowdown

My experience with Rowan Atkinson up until this point has been this: I’ve seen and enjoyed Mr. Bean, saw the first big-screen movie and enjoyed bits and pieces of his work on the show The Thin Blue Line. He’s clearly a gifted physical comedian who can mine comedy out of life’s banal minutiae and this set is further proof of that, but it’s as scattershot as any collection of sketches will be with clunkers and winners spread out evenly throughout the less than an hour running time.

Of slight interest was the religious bent a great deal of the sketches took, that isn’t to say they’re overtly religious and pious in their tone or anything, the majority of them just happen to take place in religious settings (at a sermon, in hell, at a wedding, etc.). I guess it’s simply a case of a comic writing from what they know, and it doesn’t really influence the material in any way as there seems to be a subversive element going against the grain in a majority of those sketches anyway (one of the bits near the end of the hell sketch comes to mind). Although to qualify that usage of subversive, none of this material is ground-breaking, all pretty standard comedic stuff, just performed by someone with a firm grasp of what’s funny. 

At that moment, Larry Craig realized that Ted Haggard was running the kind of church he could get behind.

Some of the better sketches were the opener in which Rowan is a late arrival at the local church’s sermon and the extended bit of physical comedy and pantomime that followed, as well as a more frenetically paced bit later on in which he gives a primer on Shakespearean acting. Mileage may vary on the majority of these pieces, but they’re all designed to make you smile, not particularly a laugh-out-loud riotous affair. Your appreciation of the man itself will really be the determining factor in whether or not this special will keep you suitably amused. I found it to be a nice diverting usage of an hour of my time, so it comes recommended.

"Dean persuasively argued for the usage of the money raised towards funding his dream project: Cruising in the Wild Wild West."

The Package

The cover art is acceptable, simply by showcasing its star in a somewhat unusual way so as to avoid complete genericosity. The disc looks and sounds like it was recorded on video in the early 90’s, which is to say it looks like hobo ass, but the audio quality is solid and it didn’t cause me blindness. The bonus materials are a few sketches that weren’t included in the American cut of his performance, the first of which was my favorite bit on the entire disc (the second of which was my least favorite), so I appreciate them being added alongside the special. It also comes with a biography and filmography for Rowan Atkinson, which I’m sure is interesting to someone somewhere with a debilitating mental illness (oh, and why neglect his work in Rat Race?  YOU CAN’T STOP THE SIGNAL, A&E!). Keep case.

6.5 out of 10