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Movie Review: Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story

May 24, 2013

Quality Balls PosterQuality Balls – A Nightingale Company Release

Release Date: May 24th, 2013 @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Broadcast Premiere: May 25th on HBO Canada and Movie Central

Rated 14A for coarse language

Running time: 80 minutes


Barry Avrich (dir.)


David Steinberg as Himself

Johnny Carson as Himself (archive footage)

Larry Charles as Himself

Larry David as Himself

Dave Foley as Himself

Philip Rosenthal as Himself

Jerry Seinfeld as Himself

Alan Zweibel as Himself


Quality Balls

©The Nightingale Company.  All Rights Reserved.

Alan Zweibal, David Steinberg and Larry David talk on set in Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story.


Our reviews below:


Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Growing up as a good Jewish boy in Winnipeg, David Steinberg went on to become one of the most influential stand up comedians in the late 1960s, inspiring everyone from Larry Charles to Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld.   Featuring entertaining interviews with the title comedian and some of the many people who were inspired by him over the years, Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story moves at a quick pace and offers a good overview of his iconic career.  After priemiering at Hot Docs, the film is sure to play especially well on TV.


Throughout his career, the Canadian comedian become known for his witty sermons and a brilliant psychiatrist routine, having appeared on The Tonight Show with Jonny Carson numerous times and even getting The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour kicked off the network for the controversy that came after including him as a guest.  Directed by Barry Avrich, Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story is an enjoyable little film that is worth seeing for the archival footage of this iconic comedian.


Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story Review by Erin V.

*** (out of 4)

Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story is a look at Canadian comedian David Steinberg, and how his style of comedy brought stand-up and improv into a new era.  Comprised of interview footage as well as clips from old skits and TV shows, Quality Balls is a funny and entertaining documentary about its title subject.  While there are many helping tell his story, the central storyteller in the film is Steinberg himself, which works very well.  Especially for those that grew up watching him on TV the film will be quite enjoyable, and for the rest of us it’s a really nice introduction to a very smart and funny guy.  


Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Many people will remember the story of David Steinberg, the well known Canadian standup comedian.  But even those who are too young to remember him will appreciate this documentary.  David Steinberg grew up with his family in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  As the son of a rabbi, he based much of his humour on Biblical references in his preacher routine, creating controversy that made him both loved and hated.  His jokes about Nixon were also revolutionary, as no one had previously dared to poke fun at an American president.  These jokes even got him on an American watch list, making him one of the first comedians to stand up for free speech.


Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story shows many of his famous routines and contains interviews with David Steinberg as well as his family and friends, and follows his career from stand up comedian to television director.  What is so impressive about David Steinberg is the way he sees humour in everything without getting too cynical.  His preacher routines, for instance, poked fun at the formal writing styles in the Bible, while still maintaining a respect for God’s scripture and Judeo-Christianity alike.  


David Steinberg’s intelligent and fairly clean humour is refreshing in an age where standup comedy often revolves around vulgarity.  He is funny, affable and has a good attitude towards life.  This documentary is a very entertaining piece of work.


Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story is an entertaining documentary about Canada’s own nice Jewish boy from Winnipeg, who ended up being a well respected comic and director.  The film follows David Steinberg’s career from standup comic and regular guest on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, to improv master and star of his own comedy show, and director on several TV sitcoms.  His story is told through interviews with Steinberg and others in the entertainment industry, clips from his standup routines and guest appearances with Johnny Carson.


Watching some of the old clips, you realize just how funny David Steinberg was and still is.  Some of his routines, particularly his Biblical sermons, are comedy classics.  What really comes across is how genuine and hardworking he is.  Even with the controversy some of his material caused, he always had respect for those he worked with.


Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story is worth seeing for those who have enjoyed his work over the years, and for anyone who enjoys classic comedy.  David Steinberg makes Canada proud.


Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story Review by Tony

*** (out of 4)

Quality Balls is the phrase used in an interview by Jerry Seinfeld to describe David Steinberg, now 70 years of age and the subject of this documentary by fellow Canadian filmmaker Barry Avrich. Growing up in Winnipeg, Steinberg was always a witty raconteur. At the University of Chicago, he first joined the theatre troupe to meet girls and later became a member of Second City, the improvisational troupe that spawned many famous performers of his generation and later its Toronto counterpart. His relaxed standup style featuring stories and mock sermons drawing on his Hebrew studies drew small appreciative audiences until a New York Times critic caught his act in Greenwich Village. Though ignoring advice to change his name, he has remained successful ever since.


I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s watching David Steinberg as a guest on variety shows such as the Smothers Brothers and particularly The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson where he appeared about 140 times, as well as a stand-in host on various talk shows. As a perfect straight man, Carson enjoyed improvising without the prescreening usually required of guests. Over the last thirty years, Steinberg has devoted most of his time to producing and directing successful comedy series.


The documentary provides a generous sample of David Steinberg’s work from the early days to a recent solo performance of reminiscences. A number of colleagues and admirers also pay tribute to his brilliance. I particularly enjoyed revisiting a clip from the Canadian improv series SCTV where Martin Short does an uncanny impression of Steinberg in a Peter Pan sketch. I hadn’t realized that SCTV was in a way a spinoff of a previous Canadian series that David Steinberg did, that the Garry Shandling Show would emulate a decade later. Ultimately what we can appreciate the most is that David Steinberg has hardly changed over some fifty years, with hopefully many more to come.


Consensus: Featuring interviews with the iconic Canadian and those who were inspired by him, Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story is an entertaining documentary that includes priceless archival footage of his classic comedy routines.  *** (Out of 4)

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