Neal Portenza: P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A | Review by Steve Bennett at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Neal Portenza: P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A

Review by Steve Bennett at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

It’s a good year for the batshit crazy.

Neal Portenza’s latest show is another tsunami of silliness storming the Melbourne festival, made so enjoyable by his eager enthusiasm and  bullet-proof commitment.

That latter quality manifests itself in the way he stretches one gag in particular to way beyond the point where it is funny, pushing right through to the other side when the pure persistence of this loveable fool makes you laugh. 

He claims he still working on the ideas, though that may be a ruse. Certainly they are not only daftly inventive, but stack up well. There’s even structure to the insanity as he returns to a few the jokes several times, by repetition making their oddness almost normal. The gags come first as himself then as a blind old wizard, then as Portenza’s malevolent brother Gary, then as his Grandma Maria – giving a new punchline, in a different ridiculously silly voice, each time.

Well, I say  ‘as himself’, but Portenza is the rouge-cheeked alter-ego of the well-educated Josh Ladgrove who occasionally allows the mask to slip to deconstruct some elements of the show and set up others.

He’s gently teasing with the audience, giving several people recurring ‘roles’ they never asked for. But it’s joyfully playful and kind-hearted – especially they way he persistently ‘do you get it?’ out of affected concern. 

The energy is high and silly, from the ‘wak-a-waka’ walk-in music that sounds as if it could have be a leftover from his kids’ show. But as tech bounces along in glee from behind the light desk and Portenza, in his uniform of red beret, surgical gown and lab coat greets the audience as they file in,  the cartoonish mood is instantly set.

That’s the spirit you need for a vigorously silly hour that features squeaky chickens, dubious card tricks, songs about sausages and snippets of poetry and physical nonsense.

If occasionally one bit of the fast-paced nonsense misfires, not to worry as Portenza can incorporate a flop into his rambunctious shtick as strongly as the many, many gags that land. He is a fine example of tight material delivered loosely. 

The result is an hour of joyous, unpredictable silliness. And you’ll never hear Nelly Furtado in quite the same way again

Review date: 16 Apr 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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