This review of "The Mario Cantone Christmas Show" at Caroline's was written and published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume I, Issue 3 (January, 1998) of Applause! Applause!
"The Mario Cantone Christmas Show" - Mario Cantone
Caroline's (1626 Broadway, NYC)
Reviewed 12/15/97 at 8 p.m.
I was surprised to find the staff at Caroline's this particular evening to be more friendly and pleasant than they have been in the past. The room was well decorated for the Christmas Season. The warm up comic was Susan Campanaro, who was an embarrassment to both Caroline's and Mario Cantone. Caroline's for approving her and Mario Cantone because he had an amateur open for him. Perhaps with completely new material, she could be funny. However, this particular evening, she had a mouth like a sewer and a voice like a frog. I am not philosophically opposed to the use of curse words in a comedy act, but they must be used with wit and style, not just to shock and to get a cheap laugh. She knocked New York City in one of her songs perpetuating the myth that most New Yorkers are rude, which is certainly untrue and she failed to offer up anything that was humorous or entertaining. She was dressed in a tight green dress with gold tinsel, which was very cute. But the more disturbed and restless I became listening to her material, the more I started to think of her as a Christmas Tree that I could, perhaps, set on fire. For Susan Campanaro, it is time to hire a professional writer. She has no time to waste.
Mario Cantone is brilliant, intelligent, talented, funny, entertaining, warm and friendly. See him whenever and wherever you can. Even the dreadful movie "Mouse Hunt", which was the only movie released during this past holiday season which I gave no stars to, was redeemed for a few precious moments when Mario Cantone appeared as a representative of a corporate conglomerate. His star is rising! It is only a matter of time before the world recognizes his extraordinary talent.
Mario Cantone's shows are never second best. He can keep an audience laughing hysterically for the entire length of his act. In this particular show, he did over 20 flawless impersonations and characterizations of famous people, funny reflections on his family and a rap song as the character "Italian Ice". No one was disappointed. Even his most ardent fans. There was even some new material and a bit about a "Jim Morrison Christmas Special" which worked very well.
In recent shows, Mario Cantone has attempted to add musical accompaniment to some of his material. Sometimes, this works very well, but other times it is a disaster. During this particular show, the musical accompaniment did not work when Mario was giving his take on various Christmas stories. The synergy of the music and material has not yet been perfected. Sometimes, the piano becomes a distraction and other times it is a pleasant and relevant backdrop to his material. The proper balance must be found.
One of the funniest moments of the evening came when a fan yelled out a request from the audience. Mario Cantone responded "I'm not a video jukebox - stick a quarter up my ass and I'll do what you want." Mario also has a definite opinion as to whether Michael Jackson is a pedophile. In fact, he requires his audience to say out loud with him "Michael Jackson is a pedophile." Although Mario Cantone's show contains many references to his family and the characters in it, Mario makes few references to his own preferences, which is just as well given the fact that his strength lies in his impressions and characterizations of famous people, an area in which he doesn't need to use material from his personal life to give his act substance. One of the things we do learn about Mario Cantone during his act is that he prefers to watch "The Wizard of Oz" on holidays instead of watching football games.
Mario Cantone must release a videotape of his core material this year. I have no idea why this project hasn't become a high priority for him. His fans are waiting to purchase these tapes not only for themselves, but as gifts for their friends. His current act must be preserved for posterity and must be shared with those who have not been fortunate enough to catch him live. Mario, your fans need you to make this videotape. A talent as brilliant as yours should be used to lighten the load of the countless and faceless masses desperate for a little relief from their daily drudgery.