HUMOR ABUSE is 90 minutes of pleasure

Lorenzo Pisoni with an old photo of his two-year old self. Historic photo by Terry Lorant. Production photo by Chris Bennion.

HUMOR ABUSE: Solo comedy. Written by performer Lorenzo Pisoni and director Erica Schmidt. American Conservatory Theater, 450 Geary St., S.F. (415) 749-2228.

Augusst 3 -19, 2012

Lorenzo Pisoni begins Humor Abuse with the self-deprecating remark, “This is a show about clowning, and I’m the straight man. I’m not funny.” Do not believe him. He is absolutely superb in this gem of a solo show that is a bittersweet autobiography about growing up in a circus family. From the minute he chases an elusive spotlight that he finally staples in position on the stage floor to begin this 90 minute evening of hilarity imbedded with moments of poignancy he has the audience in his charming grasp.

That “family” is the one ring Pickle Family Circus family that was the brain child of his parents, Larry Pisoni and Peggy Snidera that became a highly praised San Francisco institution and later a national and international treasure. In between the clownish shenanigans is the story of a son’s relationship to a father he adores.

The proverbial steamer trunk takes center stage and actually sits before a gray canvas screen to emphasize that he was born and worked in a trunk. And that trunk and two others get a workout as our nimble performer dives in and out changing his personae and using balloons in many of his vignettes. The screen is used for projections of past photos as he traces growing up as the youngest member of the Pickle family beginning as a charmer at age two sporting a clown costume identical to that of his father.

Yes the love of his father and of performing was paramount to becoming the extraordinary versatile actor that is recognized in the world of theatre. But as that the road to success is chronologically developed from the apparently simple act of faking a trip over an unseen object to the developing his individual routine(s) in later life was the product of constant practice. Under the critical eye of his mentor father who insisted on perfection with a constant demand “do it again.”

You know that the 15 step two story high stairway on stage left will play an integral part in his routines and he does not disappoint. The act of carrying multiple suitcases from stage right up  to the top of those stairs with many missteps and tumbles keeps the audience pushing into the backs of their seats.

Physical comedy abounds between his autobiographical tales. Beginning with his climbing out of the trunk to create a different characters, to doing double takes (especially the ones that earn him extra ice cream at dinner), to falling through the floor and down the stairs, to juggling and late in the show avoiding only by inches heavy falling metal bags without batting an eyelash will keep you clapping.


An extended routine he devised for his shows without his father who was divorced from his mother is a weaker routine but non-the-less treacherous to perform. Have you tried climbing a ladder with over-sized swimming flippers? Lorenzo Pisoni does it hysterically but also dangerously.

No clown show is complete without juggling. Lorenzo learned from his father using pieces of carrots! With a straight face he intones “Have ever gone shopping for carrots thinking how that one would juggle?” When he goes on to juggling the dumb-bells he is a pro.

The 90 minutes ends too quickly and the appreciative audience rose en-mass with thunderous applause.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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