The Buffoons triumvirate lacked a member Wednesday night at their Piccolo premiere, but they did not go gently into the night.
“Bobby Moynihan is dead,” said Charlie Sanders, the bald, robust member of Buffoons, who, along with Eugene Cordero, performed without a third sidekick. The crowd grew concerned and Cordero said, “We’re kidding. He’s out of town, working on a movie.”
This kind of candid, the-joke’s-on-you material works favorably for the Buffoons. Cordero and Sanders carry the extra weight without losing their ribald sense of humor, or their composure. Once the show starts moving the absence of Moynihan is unnoticed and it becomes normal for the other two jokesters to rattle the audience with impressions, sketches, and gags.
Arriving in Charleston for their third consecutive performance at the Piccolo Fringe Festival, the Buffoons know how to have a good time. They attract an enthusiastic crowd that’s ready to spring onstage for an inspired antic. Sitting among the belly-laughing girls and fist-pumping guys makes you feel like you’re in a fraternity. But it’s a fraternity you grow accustomed to, and eventually, want to join.
The giggles are contagious. The Buffoons’ comedy is silly and ridiculous; it is sometimes smart, but more often represents friends goofing off, hanging out. The duo engages the audience and asks them to name their favorite things about Charleston. People shout, “Girls, the beach, friendliness,” but the Buffoons want to talk tacos.
Cordero assumes the role of a star-struck burrito wrapper in the presence of Quincy Jones. When Jones orders a burrito it becomes an opportunity for Cordero to show his singing pipes, which, I’ve got to admit, aren’t too bad. His voice alternates like a true impersonator, and even though Jones in unconvinced, the audience laps it up.
The Buffoons have an ineffable ability to instill feelings of stupidity when it comes to analyzing their act. Their sketches recall nights of animated behavior, performed for friends. But something more lingers behind their antics.
Aside from consuming the predictable ditties on race, morals, and sex, the Buffoons lighten their subject matter with a likable stage presence and an intimate exchange with the audience. When they goof, the audience knows it. Rather that criticize, we chuckle. It’s the way the Buffoons have constructed their performance — in lieu of punchlines they pirouette the stage and manipulate lapses of comedic timing with improvisation.
The result is a close encounter with two guys who play as dumb as their act demands. But the audience is in tune with their humor, not their ignorance. The show moves along graciously as the duo switches personalities, circumstances, and hijinks.The material often reminded me of a late night television monologue: deprecating, resourceful,
inspired, it worked like a machine determined to drive home a message.
But that message is incomplete. The Buffoons have nothing to say except that they know how to speak about other people. Charlie Sanders’ rant at the end of the show about an obese man out to prove that he is, in fact, the fattest man in the world, will surely make you laugh, but it won’t open your eyes to new comedy.
The other sides of things, like Cordero’s impression of Bernie Mac and Gnarls Barkley, or Sanders’ version of James Gandolfini, resonate with a humanistic side of identification.
At root, we laugh because it’s easy. We know these people and why it is funny to laugh at their personalities. The Buffoons take advantage of our willingness, and give us a new, unadorned approach to entertainment.
Buffoons • Piccolo Fringe • $15 • 1 hour • June 5 at 9:30 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • (888) 374-2656