The Joe & Joshua Show!
Reviewed by Mayank Keshaviah
Sacred Fools Studio Theater
Through June 21
If you’re thinking the title of this Fringe production sounds like a variety show, then you are correct. Featuring elements of standup comedy, poetry, beatboxing, rap, and theater, The Joe & Joshua Show! is the latest offering from the pair who brought us Come Fux With Us at the Fringe in 2016. It also features two performers with variety in their cultural backgrounds: Joe Hernandez-Kolski is half-Mexican, half-Polish, while Joshua Silverstein describes himself as “Black, Jewish, and (slightly) Native American.”
The fast-paced, 50-minute show mostly revolves around the duo’s relationship with the ladies, comedically exploring both the bravado and fragility of the male psyche. Joe usually plays the straight man with sincerity and earnest emotionality, while Josh, in effective counterpoint, brings raw energy and sexuality to his role.
The writing in the show is sharp, satirical, and often incisive, providing both laughs and food for thought. “Divorced Moms” lasciviously lampoons the duo’s penchant for separated women with children, while “I Love My Life” ironically pokes fun at male insecurity with the fairer sex. Both are rapped and accompanied by live multi-track beatboxing, courtesy of Josh and his looping station. Other bits such as “Dear Women of Tinder…” and “I’m Sorry” feature humorous takes on dating and mating, as well as honest appraisals of men’s shortcomings in those areas.
One particularly impactful piece about privilege and language begins with Joe asking Josh a series of questions about when it’s okay to use the N-word. When indignantly told it’s never okay, Joe turns the tables and presses Josh on his use of the F-word (not the one you’re thinking of, but the homophobic slur), creating a resonant rejoinder to the original query. At the end of the piece, both conclude that the answer might be that “everybody has to listen and just say ‘okay’” when asked to not use such words.
The final bit of the evening, “Pearls of Wisdom,” is a clever twist on well-known quotes from movies and pop culture. One of the two sets up the famous quote, while the other wittily deconstructs it, such as “Life is like a box of chocolates…if you’re white. If you’re black…you’re the box of chocolates.”
Director Rebecca Larsen, who also helped develop the show, paces it at a brisk clip, which maintains the comic energy and allows the talents of the Emmy-winning HBO Def Poet and the “West Coast’s most sought after beatboxer” to remain front and center. Although the classic variety show may have fallen out of favor in recent decades on television, Joe and Josh prove that the format is still alive and well in the theater.
Sacred Fools Studio Theater, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; through June 21. http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4779. Running time: 50 minutes