Humor Abuse

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday September 25, 2013

Lorenzo Pisoni in ’Humor Abuse’
Lorenzo Pisoni in ’Humor Abuse’  (Source:Mark Garvin)

In a world so enamored with the modern-day equivalent of Barnum and Bailey-namely the dazzling extravaganzas offered by Cirque de Soleil-Lorenzo Pisoni might be referred to as the little clown who could. In the charming and unique solo vehicle, "Humor Abuse," an Obie winner now in its L. A. premiere at the Mark Taper Forum, the matinee-idol handsome, winning and astonishingly nimble Pisoni performs a cornucopia of amazing athletic stunts and slapstick bits, aided by a stage full of expertly coordinated props and a trunk full of tricks.

Meanwhile, this tireless dynamo shares alternately amusing and touching details about growing up in San Francisco as the son of a famous Italian clown, Larry Pisoni. The family troupe, the Pickle Family Circus, also included his mother, Peggy Snider. Taught by his father to do astonishing physical feats since he was a child, Lorenzo Pisoni has perfected his skills to a fine sheen. Taking pratfalls down a long staircase while carrying handfuls of luggage, climbing a long ladder while trying to stay stable with large duck-like webbed feet attached, and standing in precise spots on stage to avoid heavy sandbags falling from the ceiling to land on the floor with a loud thud all generate well-deserved oohs and ahs and plenty of nervous laughter.

The stage is adorned with tapestry and multi-colored lights, and the atmosphere is embellished with projected photographs of the Pisoni's family life and circus appearances, adding to the funny and fascinating anecdotes Pisoni shares about his experiences throughout his colorful life. At the outset, Pisano tells us he has suffered from a lifetime of "humor abuse," which we eventually think probably refers to the joy of this entertainment genre and of living such an adventurous life, coupled with the physical risks and occasional mishaps that are bound to occur, not to mention various effects on family life.

Pisoni's skill with commedia-style humor and the dauntingly risky athletic feats he undertakes are as captivating as his irresistible personality and sly wit.

He starts out by pretending to staple the uncoordinated spotlight to the ground, after it has failed to accurately follow him around the stage, setting a funny and fanciful tone right away. He then performs a steady stream of captivating tricks-juggling various objects, balancing a hat on his nose, and achieving amazingly dexterous feats at unexpected moments, such as complete back-flips. Pisoni's skill with commedia-style humor and the dauntingly risky athletic feats he undertakes is as captivating as his irresistible personality and sly wit.

As the evening is dominated by gentle humor and high spirits, Pisoni saves a very touching and surprising part of his story for the end, enriching the enthralling 90-minute show. This thoroughly enjoyable and heart warming production provides an immensely satisfying experience for audiences of all ages.

The show was devised by Pisoni and Erica Schmit, and Schmit directs. Invaluable contributions are made by lighting designer Ben Stanton, and the original music and sound designs of Burt Fasbender.

"Humor Abuse" runs through Nov. 3 at the Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. For information or tickets, call 213-628-2772 or visit