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19 November 2001 (UK)  »

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Otis Lee Crenshaw and the Black Liars: London, Not Tennessee  »

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Too many slow songs but still a great show
14 November 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The British prisoner exchange programme brings long term Tennessee based prisoner Otis Lee Crenshaw to England to experience life as it is at Her Majesty's pleasure. The man, who was so poor as a child that his parents put blue tarpaulin in the back yard to make pilots think they had a pool, sings various country and western songs on various subjects including jail, love, broken hearts and the adventures of office managers.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to see Rich Hall's creation twice on separate tours – one a mix of stand up and Otis, the other all Otis. On both occasions I have been rolling in the aisles with his wit and imagination. Most of his stuff is scripted (with slight changes left to adapt to the particular audience he is playing to) but it still plays very well.

Opening with a song about the lack of love in the life of a young bank clerk in the front row (`you've got 3 diamonds on your shirt, but no heart'), Otis pretty much stays with the subject of love and issues of the heart for most of his songs. It is all hilariously funny but it did make me wish that he had done some faster songs which he did in the shows I had seen – I don't know if these had been cut out of the DVD as the DVD was filmed on one of the tours I had seen. Faster examples include the song on the importance of spelling `Incest Boy' (`he had a face only a mother could love'), and `Rodeo Rider from the Shetland Islands' (`he looked like a midget trying to f**k a football'). That said, these songs are still very funny but the style is too much the same.

Of course, Hall is excellent as his character. In-between songs, his audience interaction seems very natural and fresh (even if he does it every night). At one point a member of the audience showboats (spoiling the song a little) but for the most part Hall is in total control and he looks to be enjoying it. The inspired lyrics to many of his songs are very funny. I'll be the first to admit that it is much more fun to be sitting in a crowd of a few hundred in a comedy club than at home with the DVD, but it still works very well on the little screen.

Overall this is a very funny DVD, although it doesn't quite represent the best of Rich Hall. The songs are very funny but, those who have seen him live may be left wondering where 4 or 5 usual songs have vanished to. Well worth seeing, Crenshaw is a great character and he delivers a very good show.


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