×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story’

Showtime doc takes a breezy trip through the comic's career

With:

With: David Steinberg

David Steinberg comes across as such a genial, emotionally healthy fellow one can appreciate why he’s survived so long in the comedy game when some of his contemporaries didn’t. So it’s easy to forget what a fascinating career he’s enjoyed until treated to something like “Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story,” a breezy trip through the comic’s career, from his early Second City days to standup material that landed him on Richard Nixon’s enemies list to his third act as a successful director. The title might come from an admiring observation by Jerry Seinfeld, but this is completely Steinberg’s show.

Those only marginally familiar with Steinberg will likely marvel at the names he can casually drop (Johnny Carson, Groucho Marx), and might wonder why his biblical sermons — which he began by ad-libbing, remarkably, a byproduct of his time studying theology at yeshiva before he began pursuing comedy — caused such a fuss at the time.

Yet Steinberg’s pleasant demeanor masks an utterly fearless streak, which included tackling Nixon in a way that caught the administration’s attention and performing his Moses routine on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which got the popular show canceled when star-producer Tom Smothers challenged the network by booking Steinberg again after his first appearance garnered boxes of hate mail.

One of the most timely aspects of the documentary, given the current latenight baton pass, involves Steinberg’s instant rapport with Carson, which not only led to countless guest shots on “The Tonight Show” but also serving as a substitute host.

It’s practically worth sitting through “Quality Balls” for those clips alone, although the doc (directed by Barry Avrich) does a nice job of taking in the totality of Steinberg’s career, including how a favorable New York Times review launched him, how Burt Reynolds used his clout to get him into directing (beginning with the movie “Paternity”) and why he gravitated toward moving behind the camera as a shift from the grueling nature of the comedy-club scene.

“Quality Balls” features Steinberg venturing back on stage, and that offers a taste of his low-key act, which was built around telling stories as much as drop-dead punchlines. Beyond Seinfeld the special features a vast assortment of family, comics and colleagues, including Larry David, Phil Rosenthal and Alan Zweibel (pictured with Steinberg and David above), relating observations and anecdotes.

Showtime will air the doc prior to the return of Steinberg’s half-hour program, “Inside Comedy,” in which he interviews fellow comics about their craft. It’s a quality combination — reason to applaud all involved with a hearty “Booga booga.” The only minor drawback is that while we’re always being told how hard comedy is, Steinberg, once again, sort of makes it look easy.

TV Review: 'Quality Balls - The David Steinberg Story'

(Documentary; Showtime, Mon. Feb. 3, 9:30 p.m.)

Production:

Produced by the Nightingale Co.

Crew:

Executive producers, Debbie Nightingale, Robyn Todd; producers, Nightingale, Alyson Richards; director, Barry Avrich; camera, Geoff Browne; editor, Tiffany Beaudin. 77 MIN.

Cast:

With: David Steinberg

More TV

  • Prince Albert II of Monaco (C),

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union's 'L.A.’s Finest' Opens Monte Carlo TV Festival

    Prince Albert II of Monaco opened the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival on Friday at a glittering ceremony at the principality’s Grimaldi Forum attended by Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. The Hollywood actresses presented the French premiere of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest,” which has just been renewed for a second season. “You typically [...]

  • Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba'L.A.'s Finest'

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union Speak About Horrific 'L.A.’s Finest' On-Set Accident

    Actresses Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba spoke about how the horrific accident on the set of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest” affected them and the crew at the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival Saturday. They also paid tribute to the main victim of the incident, executive producer/co-showrunner Brandon Sonnier, whose leg was amputated below [...]

  • Emmys: How a Social Media Campaign

    How a Social Media Campaign to Game the Emmys Led to This Week's 'Block Voting' Scandal

    The Television Academy’s “block voting” controversy has quickly become the talk of Emmy season — and that appears to have been the org’s point. According to multiple insiders, the number of people disqualified from voting in this year’s competition is believed to be small, only around three members (out of nearly 25,000 members overall). But [...]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    TV News Roundup: Hulu Drops Trailer for 'Veronica Mars' Revival (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Hulu dropped the official trailer for the “Veronica Mars” revival and HBO revealed more cast members for “Lovecraft Country.” FIRST LOOKS Hulu has dropped the official trailer for its revival of “Veronica Mars,” set to premiere on July 26. The series will bring back most of the original cast, including Kristen Bell, Jason [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

    Bob Bakish Talks Pluto TV, Netflix and CBS-Viacom Merger Rumors

    Viacom CEO Bob Bakish knows that a lot of his peers are in the original content space in streaming, but he believes the company’s ad-supported free service Pluto TV is better off relying on Viacom’s library of content. “We can debate a lot of things about the future, but in the near term, the opportunity [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content