Joe DeRosa: Zero Forward Progress | Review by Steve Bennett
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Joe DeRosa: Zero Forward Progress

Review by Steve Bennett

We’re halfway through the Fringe and American first-timer Joe De Rosa still isn’t used to it – especially the more stop-start momentum of a festival crowd or the ad-hoc nature of his venue; a gloomy Underbelly Cave.

Though in fact the dank, dark venue suits his soul. ‘I hate life and mostly all people,’ he asserts. He confesses it takes great mental fortitude for him not to be regularly punching passers-by in the face for whatever infractions he deems them guilty of.

The material is often blackest of the black, such as the gruesome imagery of severed body parts he gets from a Jeffrey Dahmer documentary. He’s suffered depression and anxiety – you can’t get into the Fringe without them, it seems – and death haunts him. Or rather the fact that no one else seems in the least bit worried about their inescapable demise, which could come randomly at any second, and just gets on with their futile lives.

We all laugh in the face of this, although another of his contentions, that if you believe in gender equality there can be no such thing as domestic violence, is a much harder premise to sell. Not that De Rosa would hold back on a topic just because it’s unpalatable. There’s a long, and bleakly funny, section about the effects of the free availability of porn – a career he considers one step less degrading than stand-up. And there’s material, too. about a convicted paedophile… though he probably needs to do a little more groundwork to explain Jared Fogle, who advertised Subway in the States, to British audiences.

Bringing these grim recesses of the soul to the surface gives 39-year-old De Rosa a ghoulish appeal – Goths would probably love him – but it’s presented in a casually laid-back style. Almost literally, since De Rosa performs in a low chair, slumped back as far as he could go, as if lazing on a pal’s couch. Or a therapist’s.

Yet there’s an uneven dynamic to the performance, perhaps a manifestation that he’s not happy with the space or the fact the undeservedly small audience have to walk across the stage to the loo, which they frequently do. And he’s not quite certain whether to go with crowd interaction or not, ultimately, and wisely, plumping for ‘not’.

But when he keeps focus on the material, his confrontation with the mortal and the immoral holds a dark allure.

Review date: 17 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Cowgate

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