Television critic David Bianculli reviews two shows that wouldn't have been possible on network TV. Steven Banks: Home Entertainment Center succeeds in part because it unfolds uninterrupted, without commercial breaks; cable gives the macabre and funny Tales from the Crypt license to be as violent as it needs to be.
Critic-at-large Laurie Stone reviews a performance of the frequent Tonight Show guest host. She says that Leno's stand-up has some social consciousness, but avoids addressing specific policies or politicians. Leno also sidesteps sexuality; when the topic does come up, Stone says Leno is lewd and misguided.
Critic-at-large Laurie Stone recently saw the actor and comedian's latest routine, which was notable for avoiding the issue of race entirely. The jokes instead relied heavily on jokes about domestic life, many of which, Stone says, were unfunny and repetitive.
Rock critic Ken Tucker says the recent crop of comedy albums has the chaotic, aggressive spirit of rock music. They don't have the same structure and allure as LPs from the 60s and 70s, but new CDs from Sam Kinison, Will Durst, and Dennis Miller are worth checking out at least once.
Critic-at-large Laurie Stone reviews Joan Rivers' new standup act. Stone says the performance loses steam midway through, when Rivers resorts to attacking the women in her audience. Rivers has grown more confident, accomplished and glamorous over the years; Stone hopes her comedy will one day reflect those changes.