The Abuse of Humor

Lorenzo Pisoni performs his one-man show about growing up as the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus. Production photo by Chris Bennion.


Last night we saw Humor Abuse, a one-man show, at the ACT theater in the City. It was mildly interesting, quite funny in spots, but not something I can give an unqualified recommendation.

Lorenzo Pisoni, the star, author and protagonist of this 90 minute one-man one-act opus, was born into the Pickle Family Circus, and started performing when he was 2.  A lifetime of experience shows not only in his unabashed acrobatic, juggling and clowning skills, but in his incredible comfort onstage–he just belongs there, and he knows it.  The Chronicle revue says that his “Arrow-shirt man” good looks limit his ability to be funny, but that certainly didn’t seem to be a problem last night.  He’s both great looking and hilarious.

If the evening had stuck to funny as a theme, it would have been great.  Pisoni is a talented clown and could easily have kept us entertained the entire show.  Sadly, it turns out that he only uses the clownery to stitch together the story of his life, and his sad, unhappy relationship with his father, Larry Pisoni, also known as Lorenzo Pickle, the founder and beating heart of the Pickle Family Circus.

Lorenzo grew up in a house where Dad was a clown, 24 hours a day.  He was performing at 2, had a steady gig as his father’s stooge onstage from 6 to 10, and went off with the circus without his parents at age 11 for 4 years or so.  He worked with his father onstage and off, lived with him, ate with him, and still never had the relationship he wanted.

I absolutely couldn’t work up any emotion to care.  It’s not like my family was perfect, not hardly.  It’s not like other theatrical productions have been unable to make me care–I can’t watch Field of Dreams without tears when Kevin Costner’s father says “want to have a catch?”, or The Promise when Rod Steiger starts to talk to his son for the first time.  This play simply doesn’t grab my emotions at all.  It only sounded like so much new age whining to me.

Pisoni seems hardly the worse for his upbringing.  Coming off the road in his early teens, he attended an upscale private school in San Francisco, then went to Vassar.  After college he worked as a ringmaster for the Cirque du Soleil and as a serious actor in New York. Not a bad life, overall.

Humor Abuse will be a the ACT theater for another week or two.  It wasn’t awful, and the slapstick is tremendous.  I wish I could say more.


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