Without Robert Klein, modern stand-up comedy might not exist. Klein was part of the holy trinity of the stand-up pantheon - along with George Carlin and Richard Pryor - of the post-Beatles era. That rock n roll conscious... more »ness proved crucial to the changes the three comedians wrought on what had become a tired, Borscht Belt-and-vaudeville-derived art form.Klein, Carlin and Pryor were all figurative offspring of the late, pioneering Lenny Bruce, who blasted boundaries with his free-associative comedy, winding up as a free-speech martyr and improv god. Robert Klein hit the main seam, taking observational comedy to new heights by finding the humor in everyday things, whether it was a trip to the dentist or life in high school in the nuclear age. Robert Klein was talking to us: the baby-boom generation that had screamed for the Beatles, postured with the Rolling Stones, grooved to The Mod Squad. It's hard to overestimate how fresh and unexpected Klein's comedy seemed when he first appeared on television. His observational humor - brash, intelligent, edgy without being confrontational - provided a role model for a generation of comedians that followed: Richard Belzer, Billy Crystal, Richard Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld. His first album, Child of the 50s, became a kind of Bible for the comedically-inclined who were following in his footsteps.Klein came from theater: Yale Drama School, to be exact. A Bronx native who graduated high school at 16 and college at 20, he quit Yale because he thought he could make it as an actor in theater in New York. Not quite; but then he auditioned for Second City and spent 14 crucial months learning and performing in Chicago, before returning to New York and Mike Nichol's musical, The Apple Tree. After the curtain fell on Broadway each night, Klein would rush to the Improvisation, the pioneering comedy club on West 44th Street, where he'd absorb the master class in comedy being conducted by Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield saw potential in the good-looking, gangly Klein and took the eager would-be comic under his wing, helping to find him management and to launch his career with a Tonight Show appearance in 1968.By 1975, when the first of the HBO concerts in this set aired, Klein was king, established as a comic wonder on variety and talk shows and working as an actor, while recording comedy albums. His first HBO appearance was also a first for HBO: its first live comedy concert, a show that set new benchmarks for audacity and language, demonstrating that the sparks that are struck during live performance can be felt through the medium of cable television.It's hard to think of a comic who has had the staying power and longevity that Klein has. As this boxed-set shows, he has always been a clear-eyed observer of the world around him, willing to yell Bullshit! in a crowded theater as much out of a sense of personal outrage as to get a laugh.More than 30 years after that first HBO special, Klein still knows how to cock a knowing eyebrow at the foibles and follies of his time. Older now, he is the parent of an adult son, but has resisted turning into his own parents. Still irreverent, still bitingly intelligent, his comedy remains fresh and telling. He was a child of the 50s - and then a child in his 50s - and now he is a citizen of the 21st Century. And still a damned funny one.
Marshall FineAn Evening with Robert Klein
Robert Klein Revisited
Robert Klein at Yale
Robert Klein: Child of the 50 s, Man of the 80 s
Robert Klein on Broadway
Robert Klein: It All Started Here
Robert Klein: Child in his 50 s
Robert Klein: The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue
"I was highly amused to watch an advance review copy of this DVD set, having been entertained on and off since the Sixties by Robert Klein's intelligent, articulate, surrealistic comedy.
This DVD set - as far as I know the only available DVD of Klein's performances - is a reasonably priced, very comprehensive (close to eight hours over four decades) and extremely amusing perspective on Robert's long career. It's clear that he has not stood still as a man or a comedian, and it's interesting for a fan to see his development and growth. His considerable gift for mimicry, effortless and constant segues, and sarcastic commentary on contemporary affairs will keep you laughing.
Some of my favorite pieces were his soulful ode to colonoscopies, sung in a Manilow-ish manner; Pat Boone doing Little Richard songs (hilarious), the search for John Wayne Bobbitt's lost member...this is a man who has found humor in many areas of life, delivers it with great élan, and shows no sign of slowing down! He's a pretty good singer and harmonica player, into the bargain. "
A true original
Progressive | Colorado | 10/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a terrific retrospective of Robert Klein's ever-evolving talent. I'm particularly pleased to get to see his early HBO shows; as Robert said on Jay Leno, in those days HBO had fewer than a half million subscribers, so these are rare films indeed. Here's a very smart, perceptive, multi-talented artist with a splendidly creative, wicked wit and a flowing inspiration. No surprise Leno treated him with great respect; most of the great comics, Seinfeld and Romano for example, feel very much the same."
"Robert Klein has been a major influence in my life and I didn't realize it. I even bought a pair of blue and white saddle shoes in the 70s. One day I was listening to my comedy records and I discovered how much of my sense of humor was based on Klein's jokes and observations. Although I always liked George Carlin too, his accurate observations of human behavior can be quite depressing at times. Robert Klein makes you think, but he never gets you down.
I missed most of these shows when they were originally aired on HBO and after hearing them years later, I think they hold up well in the 21st Century, especially for a Child of the 50s.
A true treasure.
G. Haynes | 12/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since age 13, I have been entertained by Robert Klein's HBO specials. At one point I'm pretty sure I had "Robert Klein at Yale" and "Child of the 50's, Man of the 80's". nearly memorized. "Robert Klein on Broadway" was almost memorized as well.
Up to this point there was no way to watch his specials except at HBO's whim. Then, if you weren't an HBO subscriber, you were left high and dry. I always knew there were early and late specials I had never seen. Finally, I can see the entire corpus of his work.
What a treasure. Thank you Robert Klein!!!"
True Grinder | 05/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow, I'm sure glad this set was released. I've always loved Robert Klein, and bought his "Child of the 50's" CD about fifteen years ago. I'd only seen two of his HBO specials from the 80's (we couldn't afford HBO in the 70's and early 80's), but I'd always remembered them well. For some reason Robert Klein hasn't remained in the public consciousness the way George Carlin has, but I think of them as similar (and both very funny). This collection is really a smokin' deal, considering that it's over 8 hours of material and most of it was never released before, even on VHS. This collection would be even better if it included his comedy CD's, some of which are out of print. But that's a minor complaint. For the money, this collection is a steal."