The title and set decoration of Louie Anderson’s newest DVD suggest that the 59-year-old Vegas headliner might be taking a new turn and looking back at the history he’s witnessed. The Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center backdrop features the comedian’s rather large head and frame in some of history and pop culture’s well-known scenes, from President Nixon’s infamous two-handed peace salute as he boards his helicopter to standing with Neil Armstrong as he plants the American flag on the moon.
Instead, Big Baby Boomer consists of the same type of material that made him famous enough to warrant his own Saturday-morning cartoon, or later take the reins as host of Family Feud—safe but overdone. The longtime and long waist-lined comedian may still be an old pro as he moves into his late 50s, but his material hasn’t grown with him.
Anderson spends the majority of time talking about his food addiction, including particular loves and loathings that are usually one in the same. (He rails against McDonald’s new Big Mac Wrap as the snack that will get the chain’s entire workforce sent to hell, then gives in and orders one.) While Anderson paved the way for fat comics to find acceptance on the road by turning their struggle with eating into fodder that’s familiar and funny to the thinnest of audiences, his latest take on it just feels like it’s been done before, not to mention much better by other hefty humorists like John Pinette, Lavell Crawford and even the younger Louie Anderson himself.
The performance as a whole also feels too rehearsed and straight from the textbook of one of his former Stand Up Boot Camp: Conquering the Stage classes. Anderson opens with some observations that don’t really explore any new avenues or maximize the potential for laughter from anyone who has spent the smallest amount of time watching stand-up performances in a club or at home. He even takes his material back to the airport, a gutted comedy mine that’s been picked cleaner than an unwrapped Butterball by a pack of vultures.
Anderson does have some moments of personal insight, unearthing a promising new topic when he talks about the heart problems he experienced a few years ago, but unfortunately any headway he makes is negated by the same kinds of pedestrian jokes that make the entire special feel so lethargic. The show doesn’t live and grow in the moment: Except for one or two moments of interaction with the audience, Anderson rarely ventures from the script, at certain points actually relying on puns that, in most social situations, would barely elicit a groan. Similarly, punchlines and callbacks are easy to guess for most comedy nerds (and that’s when he’s able to maintain their attention).
The type of material Anderson presents can certainly be funny, as he’s proven with the work he’s done after cutting his widely gapped teeth in his early road-comic days. There just isn’t any new energy to turn the old topics into creative new revelations.