"Humor Abuse" Juggles History, Fun, and Clowns

Ever wish you could run off to join the circus?  "Humor Abuse", a thoroughly enjoyable A.C.T. production, presents Lorenzo Pisoni recalling his eccentric and hilarious life being raised in the circus.  Pisoni grew up as the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus, founded in San Francisco in 1974 by Larry Pisoni, Peggy Snyder, and Cecil MacKinnon.  Bill Irwin and Geoff Hoyle joined their ranks to bolster the much-beloved Bay Area troupe who performed here and beyond. 

Pisoni's parents encouraged their son's natural stage presence from the age of two.  He grew up as a child among adults who played for a living every day.  At a young age, Pisoni accidentally toddled away from the circus, causing his parents to make him wear a button announcing "My name is Lorenzo Pisoni.  I belong to the circus."  His father, Larry Pisoni, also known as Lorenzo Pickle, taught him prat falls, back flips, make-up, and the comic timing all clowns must possess.

"Humor Abuse" is fast-paced, diverse, and madcap at times.  The laughs begin right at the start, when the spotlight stubbornly refuses to focus on Pisoni, and he chases it down.  Lorenzo bases his no-holds-barred memoir on the role his father played in his journey to entertain.  Pisoni narrates while he peels off costumes, using flashbacks of actual photographs from the Pickle Family Circus archives and vintage props.  The story of his youth is one of closeness with his masterful clown father, an adoration to be envied.  Pisoni partnered with him, making people laugh, yet admits he was always the straight guy in their act.  It's clear the clown gene is genetic, as we watch Pisoni do his onstage theatrics, whether juggling, dodging falling sand bags, or diving with swim fins into a bucket.

Pisoni went off to New York to find success in acting.  The audience chuckles when Pisoni relates how his Eastern college classmates accidentally discovered they had a genuine circus performer in their midst.  His true-life story is stranger than any fiction.

The show runs 80 minutes without an intermission.  Tickets starting at $10 are available at www.act-sf.org or at (415) 749-2228.  This show is suitable for families, and runs through February 5th at the American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary Street, S.F.