Make ‘em laugh. That’s what they say about showbiz and nowhere is this truer than in the circus.
Combining pratfalls, juggling, death defying feats, balloons, red noses and out and out silliness, Lorenzo Pisoni goes one step further by making audiences laugh and cry in his extraordinarily poignant and moving one man show, Humor Abuse, currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles.
Armed with charisma, fearlessness and a few props, Pisoni has the audience in the palm of his hand from the outset as he takes them on the journey of his life… literally.
Humor Abuse is Pisoni’s recounting of his life growing up in the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco in the mid 1970s as the son of Lorenzo the Clown. Placing himself onstage in the intermission of his parents’ circus troupe at the age of two, Pisoni was weaned on life under the big top and the bright lights.
Using a series of adorable slides that show him growing up alongside his father, Larry, in the circus, Pisoni weaves an extraordinary tale – revealing what it’s like to live every kid’s dream of growing up in the circus. Yet despite Pisoni’s exemplary clowning and circus abilities, at the end of the day Humor Abuse is about the relationship between father and son. The piece is really an homage to Pisoni’s father and the fierce love between the two.
Like all father/son relationships theirs is a convoluted one, made all the more so by Larry Pisoni’s unique profession. As Lorenzo points out early on in his show, you’d think growing up with a clown for a dad would be fun. Think again.
While the audience (and Pisoni himself) laugh at some of the lessons his father taught him, Pisoni also manages to convey the angst and pain that comes with having a man teach you as a little boy how to fall down stairs. And then, when he finally takes the plunge –literally – his father turns to him and says, “Do it again. But this time don’t protect yourself.”
Yet despite some of the sketchy child-rearing techniques, there’s clearly an extraordinary bond between father and son. It’s a relationship that embodies love and humor and pathos and one that takes Pisoni most of his life to come to terms with.
Clearly, father taught son well. Pisoni is a fearless performer, willing to risk life and limb, with a strong gift and desire to entertain an audience, but he also connects with that audience on a deeply emotional level.
Watching this show you really will laugh and cry. And a tiny part of you will be secretly envious that you didn’t get the chance to grow up in the circus.
On the heels of the show’s success a kickstarter campaign has been established by actors John Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt to make a documentary about Pisoni’s life. Check out the kickstarter campaign here.
Humor Abuse continues through Nov. 3 at the Mark Taper Forum. For more information and tickets, click here.