The new DVD project from Nick Kroll is the best of all sorts of comedy: characters, sketch, and stand-up. It seems that, for the most part in the past, when comedians combined characters and stand-up something in the act ended up suffering. Either they got so into doing characters they lost the knack for straight stand-up or their stand-up was solid but their characters became flat and one-dimensional, or they were so into doing characters that  it became more about character work and less about being funny and then they’re no longer doing “stand-up” but “one man shows” where they drop the stand-up altogether and focus only on characters who are now taken so seriously they’ve had every last bit of humor squeezed out of them and then they end up stuck in a rut, doing the same basic show over and over again until they end up taking really bad roles in movies where they’re playing Luigi from Mario Bros.

But I digress.

Nick Kroll: Thank You Very Cool has, in my humble opinion, figured out the very best way to incorporate characters into the show without it feeling forced. Instead of parading each persona out onto the stage one at a time (Now I’m gonna do this one, now I’m gonna do this one), Kroll has devised a way to make each person a different part of the live show-going experience.

Bobby Bottleservice is working security out front as people file into the theater and when he’s not taking advantage of his authority by being way too eager to frisk the ladies, he’s on-stage opening the show by giving the audience a list of do’s and don’t-do-its while they are inside.

Fabrice Fabrice is the Craft Services Coordinator (something tells me Fabrice Fabrice would like that I’ve capitalized his title. He’d probably want me to add glitter to it, as well) who takes his string cheese layouts a little too seriously. He’s the only other character with actual stage time, appearing toward the end of the show to display his knack for flamboyant slam poetry based on suggestions from the crowd.

Although technically considered an audience member, the sweater-clad Gil Faizon and his — for lack of a better word — companion (played to perfection by the always-funny John Mulaney) spend most of their time out in the bar with their tuna-tinis (or is it a mar-tuna?) or in the restroom huddled together in a stall trying to score some “cuh-caine.”

And finally, simulcasting everything that’s happening on the stage from his studio on the rooftop, is my personal favorite El Chupacabra, the hottest Spanish-language radio DJ in Los Angeles who always has a room full of special guests. This time is no exception. His enthusiastic delivery is made even funnier as he welcomes an old man, a baby, and a goat (all of whom are, of course, voiced by El Chupacabra himself, in true Crazy Radio Host form).

Each one of Kroll’s alter egos are incredibly funny and his sincere knack for improvisation can’t help but shine through. There are no “fast-forward this one” characters in the bunch; each one has their own distinct quirks and idiosyncrasies that distinguish them from each other and makes them all uniquely hilarious for very specific and different reasons.

When it comes to being himself as a stand-up comedian, Kroll shines just as brightly. His material is top-notch, and if you’ve only seen this special as it was aired on Comedy Central then you’re depriving yourself of about 20 minutes of material  that truly deserves to be seen. Everything that was trimmed for broadcast was cut for no other reason than to make time. There are no weak spots or obvious “Oh yeah, I can see why that was cut” bits.

Kroll brings new life to a trip to the DMV by admitting it’s the only public place he feels comfortable passing his Apocalypse Now-level gas. He hilariously recreates why sex is better for dumb people and the conversation he has with his future son about life’s tough questions (The Holocaust. September 11th. Michael Jackson) is nothing short of brilliance. Let it also be noted that Kroll gives the best answer(s) to the question “What did Michael Jackson look like?” I’ve ever heard. Ever.

His set ends with a bit on cats. If I try to explain to you with words the physicality of his feline impression, I won’t even come close to doing it justice. Just trust me. It’s dead on. And when he shows us his original interpretation of how cats act and behave — and what it looked like to a buddy of his — well….yeah. Suffice it to say I laughed a lot.

There’s so much to love about this project, I’ve barely scratched the surface. The cameos (Mulaney! Mindy Kaeling! And hey, that’s Chelsea Peretti!), the bonus features (please, for the love of Pete, do not, under any circumstances, deny yourself the bonus features), and the DVD menu.

That’s right. The DVD menu.

As photos of Kroll and his various characters spin by endlessly, we are treated to an audio commentary that has quickly made this my favorite DVD menu of all time (Sorry, Zoolander!). Kroll is joined — and interrupted — repeatedly by his characters in a free-form conversation that is so entertaining it’s almost depressing to think that most people will probably skip right past it to get to the main feature.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a huge fan of Kroll and this project. I probably could have saved you the time it took to read this review and just used the title of the project as my write-up. It pretty much sums up my sentiments in six words:

Nick Kroll. Thank you. Very cool.

***

Nick Kroll: Thank You Very Cool is available from Comedy Central

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