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Rizzolo Chat
The Canal Café
23rd August 2013


James Taylor Thomas (twice) and Matthew Radway

Photography provided by The Intimate Strangers

Double act The Intimate Strangers serve up this hour-long comedy offering which centres around fictional wannabe chat show host Rizzolo (Matthew Radway), as he attempts to interview an assortment of barmy guests including a conspiracy theorist, an aged horror movie actor, and a resident of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.

Set under the guise of filming a pilot which may lead to a series, the show begins with an introduction from Rizzolo's manager Gary (Chris Markham), who explains housekeeping to the audience and prepares us for the big man's entrance. Sporting a seedy beret and draped in a huge faux-fur that lends him an air of a distressed bear, Rizzolo immediately confounds our expectations, being not even a tiny little bit Italian, with an accent which lies somewhere vaguely between The Producers' Roger DeBris and South Park' Cartman.

The comedy mainly rests on the fact that the entire 'show' is deliberately shoddy, from the tiny screen on which the VTs play, to the plastic chairs onstage, to the (clearly) cardboard badge Rizzolo presents to a guest. The guests become progressively more outlandish and out of control, to the increasing frustration of Rizzolo, who views the entire exercise simply as a ticket to fame and fortune. This means that initially, at least, the character must play the straight man within some of the scenes, allowing the various guests (all carried off with panache by James Taylor Thomas) to enjoy some of the stronger material. Several of the Julian-Clary-via-Perez-Hilton character's vicious asides, in particular, are quite hilarious; the interlinked series of VTs featuring the show's roving reporter (also Matthew Radway) also contains some real gems, which owe a great debt to Chris Morris and Dennis Pennis.

No subject is off-limits across any of the material (abortion! Racism! Children dying of cancer! The now ubiquitous Jimmy Savile!) but it works since the butt of the jokes are generally the characters themselves, plus a few terrifying members of the public in the street interviews. The character of Gary, the poor, abused manager is slightly under-used but otherwise the balance of the show felt good. The lighting is capably handled and allows smooth transitioning between the 'recording' and the pre-filmed segments, which are nicely edited and become funnier as they become more outlandish. "Which is worse? Raping or pillaging?" questions the reporter, dressed as a pirate and trying to evade the police.

Back on stage, Rizzolo himself exudes an entirely narcissistic sexuality, using both audience members and guests to continually bolster his own ego. An audience participation segment early on is simply a vehicle for him to pick on a lady to roleplay going on a date with him, and perhaps most terrifyingly the final interview, which serves as a kind of self-insert fanfic, culminates in heavenly praise from both Princess Diana and Alexander McQueen. It revels in its own grotesqueness (not at all a problem) that, while funny, lacks a certain level of nuance or subtlety that make other comic chat show hosts (Alan Partridge, Larry Sanders, and heck, even Rik Mayall's Richie Rich) so compelling and classic.

It's not the kind of show that will change the face of comedy forever, and this kind of madcap idiocy has been done better by acts like Peacock and Gamble, but if you're prepared to join in with the spirit of the piece, it's definitely a fun evening out.

Rizzolo Chat opened on 23rd August and runs until 25th August 2013, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo)

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