ALEX PAVONE at Yuk Yuk’s Downtown (224 Richmond West), Saturday, January 19, at 10:30 pm. 416-967-6425. Rating: NNNNN
Alex Pavone is a young, cocky stand-up in his mid-20s who's been doing comedy for about five years. Last year, I saw him perform several times in short sets where his impressive, manic delivery burned up the Yuk Yuk's stage. Often he was so high-strung, he walked out into the crowd - on people's tables, no less - and continued his act. Guy's got balls.
But did he have enough material - and could he sustain that intensity - for a headlining set? As I discovered during his late-night show on Saturday: yes and yes.
Pavone, who grew up Italian-Canadian in Woodbridge, looks like a young and hungry Robert DeNiro, or John Cazale, the tragic Fredo from The Godfather movies. His fly-away hair is tied up in a half-assed ponytail, like an off-duty samurai.
He emanates a restless energy, and there's a sense of danger and unpredictability about him. At the same time he's oddly likeable. Early on in his act he talked about how drinking wine made him overly emotional. "I listen to Adele," he says, "my emoticon usage goes through the roof, and I phone old girlfriends." Clever way to get us on his side.
Whether he's taking on the difference between the NFL and CFL, what it's like to enter a McDonald's sober at 3 am or being attacked by a goose while working a construction job, he delivers honest details.
His high-energy delivery - at times it's like he's on speed or crack - belies the care with which he's crafted his jokes. That McDonald's scene is a perfectly realized mini-play full of real characters.
In another bit, Pavone re-enacted a scene where he's ejected by a bouncer at a club - he physicalizes the man holding him, arms straight out. "Like a baby that's just shit its diaper, or Simba from The Lion King." Another character drags his leg "like a musketeer." Brilliant.
As he proved on Saturday night, he's also smart, referring to jokes and observations made by other stand-ups earlier in the night. A good comic learns from others.
Pavone's the real thing: one of the most exciting voices on the scene.