Review: The Chris and Paul Show, Just the Tonic at The Caves (Venue 88)

Seemingly arriving out of nowhere last year as nominees for the Foster’s best newcomer award, New Yorkers Chris O’Neill and Paul Valenti can only deliver a fitfully entertaining follow-up.

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A typical sketch features the vaudeville-inspired pair as a couple of what seem to be petulant, overgrown schoolboys, a dynamic that endures throughout their endearingly innocent, slow-build sketches.

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They can be wonderfully inventive, Valenti inflating O’Neill like a balloon with an audience member’s assistance, the latter delivering an oddly convincing performance. But when their high-concept gags fall flat, they go down 
painfully hard to indifferent silence.

They haven’t always figured out the best way to finish their skits either, though they share the simpatico, slapstick chemistry of the best silent stars and many of their funniest moments occur without words, their gift for physical clowning beyond question. Regardless, this second instalment feels like they’ve returned before they had sufficient time to produce enough decent material.

At least they finish strongly, with a surreal, dream-like sequence in which Valenti is lured into temptation by a giant cookie, the balletic possession of his body impressive for such a big guy.

Until tomorrow. Today, 8:40pm.