You may know Mario Cantone as Anthony Marentino, Charlotte's outspoken, divo event planner on Sex and the City. Or you may know Mario Cantone as the "gay dude" in Chappelle's Show's "Ask a Gay Dude" sketch. Or you may know Mario Cantone simply as ... Mario Cantone, the screeching spitfire stand-up comic, actor and Tony-nominated Broadway performer with two one-man shows properly notched on his resume.
Well, he's in the process of making that three one-man Broadway shows as he runs his brand new material by Montreal crowds before his upcoming New York slated gig. On stage at Le Gesù every night now through Saturday, the yet-to-be-titled show is a follow-up to his lauded and eventually televised 2004 stage offering Laugh Whore.
Cantone isn't the first international talent to test the waters in Montreal via the Just for Laughs comedy festival. Rowan Atkinson used Montreal crowds as guinea pigs when he tried out a new character he was working on back in 1989. Mr. Bean has since made television history.
Having had a chance to attend last night's premiere, one chock-full of impressions, singing and vintage pop culture references, I can say with confidence that if you're over 40, love TV talent competitions and are well-versed in golden age of American film and television programming, you will likely experience no dropouts.
I, unfortunately, did experience dropouts. Like Connie Francis. Who is Connie Francis? Even my senior aged friend whom I brought with me to the show didn't know Connie Francis. So I called up a baby boomer after the curtain fell:
-"Hey P, you know Connie Francis?"
-"Yeah. She was a singer. She sang "Where the Boys Are."
-"That's what Cantone sang. Never heard of this woman in my life."
-"You don't know Connie Francis?"
-"Who does? My friend who came to the show is older than you and he doesn't know Connie Francis."
-"Everyone knows Connie Francis."
-"No we don't. Diana Ross and Wanda Jackson? Sure. But Connie Francis? Come on."
-"Yeah yeah, you're just pissed that you don't know Connie Francis."
-"Nobody knows Connie Francis!"
Well, somebody in the crowd knew Connie Francis because Cantone got a rise out of at least some of the audience. So here's the thing. My grasp of 20th century history, politics, economic, social and scientific breakthroughs isn't half bad. Walk me through the Korean War, the joke that was the League of Nations, or dissect Coco Chanel's alleged Nazi affiliations or something and we're good to go. But pre-1965 film, music and television? I only just saw my first episodes of I Love Lucy last week (my cable company is giving me a free preview of the Comedy Gold channel). So when Cantone covered Bette Davis' vocal shift after her stroke, I was lost.
But here's the other thing. When I was able to follow the plot, which was about 60% of the time, I was in stitches. Cable channels aside, Cantone is comedy gold, especially in anecdote-sharing mode involving key celebrities. Martha Stewart impression? Bob Dylan singing Christmas tunes? Priceless. I'm surprised my mascara didn't run.
And fine, the show was uneven. Whatever. It's a work-in-progress. Just come in knowing that Cantone could easily trim down the two-hour show to 90 minutes, tighten the Liza Minnelli bit and even out the pacing. It's not every day that you get to watch a Broadway show before it hits New York.
Mario Cantone's Broadway follow-up to Laugh Whore runs July 24 through July 28, 2012 at Le Gesù. Admission $49.57 plus service charge. Buy tickets.
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- Just for Laughs 2012: Review of The Nasty Show
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In line with About.com's and the New York Times Company's full disclosure policy, readers should be aware that Evelyn Reid was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of reviewing Mario Cantone, a common procedure in the entertainment industry. Also note that the latter gratuity has not influenced this review. For more information on full disclosure at About.com, please consult our ethics policy.