Although Italy's economy and political system have of late appeared to be on the verge of total collapse, at least her sixty-odd million citizens can take solace in the fact that they're just more relaxed than their cousins north of the Alps. The Germans and Scandinavians might be in tip-top shape, but do you think Angela Merkel would make a good stand-up comic? Didn't think so. Say what you like about Silvio Berlusconi: if he can blame all his recent ills on a cabal of 'Marxist' judges in the Italian judicial system, he can't be utterly devoid of a sense of humour. Much like his erstwhile Prime Minister, indeed, Antonello Taurino occasionally showed the spark of a decent comic, but for much of the hour his audience didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
To be fair, not all of this is entirely Taurino's fault, but Taurino's thick accent seriously impaired his delivery several times. A few jokes were hamstrung by the comedian's inability to pronounce the punchline properly, though to be fair one faltering gag was saved by his quip that this was an 'IKEA joke' - he throws out the words and the audience puts them together.
Still, if Taurino's accent was the only problem with this show, it would probably be worth seeing. Unfortunately, a number of jokes would have failed to raise a titter if they'd been told by the Queen herself. Although I am of Italian descent and speak the language, I have been raised on a decidedly British style of comedy. This may explain why much of Taurino's material seemed as alien to me as it did to much of the audience. Apparently he's popular in his native country, but this arguably says more about the comedic distance between Britain and Italy than it does about his skill as a performer.
Many of the gags were thoroughly old-fashioned, with the crass stereotyping of Jews and homosexuals perilously high on the agenda. Of course, Taurino almost certainly despises bigotry as much as any thinking person, but some of his jokes demonstrated the acute dangers of performing a show without considering the cultural mores of the audience. Moreover, despite the title, not much of Taurino's act really centred on Italy. This is a pity, as his comments on the state of his country's inflated civil service, for instance, proved both interesting and amusing.
Indeed, when Taurino stuck to uncontroversial and well-rehearsed material, he showed himself to be a competent host. His concluding selection of pictorial witticisms managed to end the performance on a happy note. Much like the country of his birth, there was plenty to like, but his show was too blundering to be anything more than mediocre.