Windsor’s Italian community is a strong and proud part of the city’s heritage. For decades, Italian immigrants have come to Canada’s largest border city for a life of prosperity and comfort. If the capacity crowd at the Chrysler Theatre who came out for comedian Joe Avati on Saturday night was any indication, the Italian community is alive and well.
Avati and a handful of other Italian comedians came to Windsor for an evening of light-hearted entertainment, poking a little fun at the quirks of their heritage. Although not as dramatic as the Risorgimento of the 19th Century, for Windsor’s Italians, it was an evening of unification and cultural pride. From entering the theatre to a serenade of Italian music (complete with a lovely live accordion player bouncing around the lobby) to the endless references spoken in their mother tongue, it was a night to celebrate Italy and all the immigrants who’ve come to Windsor throughout the years.
Host Freddy Proia intertwined his over-the-top act in-between the others. He had the crowd laughing every step of the way, especially during his fabulous Italian Gino routine, complete with leather jacket, hairspray and outrageous dance routine.
Proia was followed by the rather curious looking Giuseppe Meleca (Giuseppe The MC) who spent some of his act chatting about his exploits at the airport where his Punjabi looks caused him some security grief. The English/Calabrese comedian also spent part of his act chatting about his Italian mother and her common quirks.
“Disgraziato” Guido Grasso followed with the most Italian-driven comedy of the evening. His act had the most mother tongue of the show. He felt like a member of the family telling stories about his different relatives and the rather odd situations most Italians apparently always seem get themselves into.
Avati was the star of the show though. The cheering was suitable for a rock band, with an excessive amount of applause when he hit the stage – the laughs were loud and the tears were real. He’s a very personable comedian and very relatable. Although the laughs centered around the fun times he had growing up in his Italian household, the humour was quite universal when he talked about the differences in generations and technology.
The highlight of Avati’s show was when he started to translate popular Italian phrases into English. Most of the translations were off-the-wall and nonsensical and really struck a chord with some audience members who threw Avati some of their own phrases.
In many ways Avati invoked a sense of security and confidence in his bits – giving immigrant families something to cheer and feel proud about. Whether it was a reference to the memories of getting slapped across the head for being silly or simple conversations with family members, Avati was a master at delivering the light-hearted messages.
If capacity crowds full of avid and frantic fans is one of the defining features of being a real rock star, Joe Avati accomplished that without even trying too hard. He’s a natural.