Nath Valvo: Happy Idiot
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2016
With sell-out shows across Australia and at Soho Theatre this Aussie rising star makes his Fringe debut. From his dysfunctional family to '90s suburbia, his fear of sport to accidental orgies – Nath's brutally honest and razor sharp comedy is winning over audiences and critics alike. 'A riotous hour of sharp observations, family anecdotes and fabulous physical comedy. Ridiculously funny' ***** (Herald Sun). 'Relentlessly funny' **** (Sydney Morning Herald). 'Super-charming, super-happy... his enthusiastic energy is irresistible. An hour of invigorating laughs' (Chortle.co.uk).
Nath Valvo: Happy Idiot
A whining brat incapable of sustaining an hour. But enough about the baby in the crowd whose bawling briefly disrupted Nath Valvo's show, what about the incredulous comic?
Well, he's a lot of impish fun. An immature 32, he's lately moved back to his parents' house in Melbourne, as much for the material as economic necessity, it seems. His father's grumbling resentment and his mother's hoarding mementoes from his school days affords him plenty of amused exasperation, which he projects into frequently dubious generalisations about all parents, even if he conveys these thoughts persuasively. The refrain of his show is the familiar one that inevitably, we all turn into our folks, no matter how hard we strive to resist.
A likeable and confident act, whose assurance on stage and self-pity off it inspire the repeated disclaimer 'hold your applause!', the self-described 'little gay from Australia' oscillates between excitable enthusiasm and juvenile petulance. There are some relatable routines about drunk aunts at weddings and trying to avoid speaking to an elderly relative on the phone, his Italian grandmother a proud woman pained not by his homosexuality but his food allergies.
Aware that his immigrant father fought in the Vietnam War, Valvo knows that his own 'in my day' reminisces are likely to bore younger generations. But he presses ahead anyway with his recollections of receiving dick pics in the era before broadband. Though scarcely the most original of subject matter, he sells it well, playing up the risk of the frustratingly slow technology outing the then closeted teenager to his naïve parents.
Hooking up with a super-fit, Aids research doctor has brought him as much insecurity as joy, not least as his boyfriend has been characterised as the funny one in their relationship.
But why should anyone be happy? In a set-piece that's pure filler but pruriently compelling all the same, he pulls a couple up on stage for his fiendish version of Mr & Mrs, a gameshow in which they reveal what they do and don't know about each other. Flooding the stage in diabolic red light, scurrying between the two with the whispered challenge 'prove your love', it's cruel and calculatedly hilarious.
Such is his rapport with the audience that it doesn't feel that outrageous a liberty either. And he brings the same degree of exploratory enthusiasm and mischief to his account of accidentally ending up in an orgy - struggling to express himself as a sexually confident adult but subsequently embodying his greatest fear.
Although lightweight at times, Valvo is a born crowd-pleaser and you can see why he's earned his best newcomer nomination in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.