Review By Tessa Stickland
I first saw Dani Cabs performing his clown character, Poncho Orange, at a lineup show (possibly at the MICF Festival Club) last year. From that set, all I knew coming in to Poncho: Keep it Up! is that it would be an incredibly horny show.
I was correct. It is exceedingly horny – but surprisingly emotional and vulnerable too.
If you're uncomfortable with sexy shows, this might not be the show for you. Or at least you don't want to see it with you dad (tell your dad to see it, just don't see it together).
There's simulated oral sex with fruits. There's coconut oil. And general flirtation from Poncho to almost anyone in the audience.
However, there's one key difference between this and most other titillating comedy shows. It might be the difference that makes you enjoy it where you otherwise wouldn't.
The difference is that Poncho has the most clear discussion of consent that I've ever seen at a comedy show.
The first thing Poncho does, after welcoming the audience, is establish a safeword with us.
He explains that it's to be used if there's "anything coming towards you that you don't want". He also clarifies that it isn't to be used if he's on stage not physically near you. "You can just close your eyes." (I.e. "please don't use it to heckle me".)
He gets the audience to suggest three different words, which we then vote on via the loudest applause. Our word was "toot".
This is all done on character as Poncho. He doesn't need break character and do it as himself. This keeps it engaging, and it's also relevant to the message Poncho is trying to share with us throughout the show.
It's wonderful to have a safeword in a show like this. I don't think it's used enough across this type of comedy.
I've seen other comics create ways to ensure consent (e.g. Garry Starr giving an audience member a pair of sunglasses with instructions to give them to someone else if they don't want what's coming at them). But I appreciate how clear Cabs' approach is.
It keeps things safe and enjoyable for everyone. It allows people to attend a sexy show without true fear of being forced into something. It gives people the ability to disengage in a quick, unambiguous, and comfortable way – without the pressure of societal norms or theatre etiquette.
Some may worry the existence of a safeword could reduce the intensity of audience reactions and feelings.
1) I don't think it does.
2) So what if it does, consent is more important.
3) There are other ways to make the audience feel what you want them to feel (be that discomfort, unease, or anything else) if you're good enough. (And Poncho/Cabs is.)
While being a fun, silly, raunchy romp – Poncho: Keep it Up! is also an incredibly considered piece of theatre imbued with deep meaning.
This show is about the dangers of toxic masculinity and the damage that causes to people of all genders. It's about wanting to find away forward with empathy together.
These themes and messages are important for everyone. We all deserve the permission to feel emotion without shame.
Go see this orange-clad Latino clown, perfectly at home in aate night timeslot on The Butterfly Club's downstairs stage.
For something so dirty, it's undeniably beautiful.