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'Sensitive' Comic Is a Geek God

Paul Stroili's one-man show is a funny look at guys who know too much about 'the wrong things.' Insightful and affectionate portraits fill out the evening.


Paul Stroili gave the wrong impression growing up. He wasn't interested in sports, but he knew the difference between flan and creme brulee. His mother thought he might be gay but didn't care. His father was proud of his three children, "one of each." But Stroili was not gay. He just came to know "the wrong things."

That's the joke in "Straight Up With a Twist," his one-man show at the Gem Theater in Garden Grove. Stroili was "sensitive." He "had good taste and a great eye for color."

He says the world could be cruel to what he calls a "Renaissance geek." But it could also be very funny in this sendup of labeling and wrong impressions. He found out during the '80s that women were looking for the sensitive side of their men. When, happy as a lark, Stroili presented his sensitive side, the women began to think of him as their best friend--and then made it with the rugby players. Life wasn't fair, but Stroili's sense of humor and the ridiculous carried him through, and he's now dedicated to enlightening other Renaissance geeks to their special place in the world.


Much of the evening looks very like a stand-up routine, but Stroili fills it out with insightful and affectionate portraits of his gentle parents, his stereotypically dense macho brother and his not-too-normal psychiatrist. The portraits are filled with delicious humor. His chain-smoking German mother is laid-back and loving, except when husband Bruno buys her the wrong kind of cigarettes, and shrugs her shoulders at her son's decidedly strange ways.

His gentle Italian father is caring and tries to skirt around Paul's oddness, and the psychiatrist is giddily and truly confused by his client during the many years of their association. The funniest of the bunch is Paul's brother, whose mind is not much above a grunt, with a pelvic tic and the baseball cap on backward to prove his manhood.

Stroili's admonition not to call during "Monday Night Football" because that's when he vacuums pokes fun at his condition, but he pokes fun at others with the same lightness. Even Jesus, he claims, was a Renaissance geek. The loaves and fishes, he says, were "a perfect example of on-your-feet party planning."

The one misfire in the show is Stroili's presentation of a television quiz show called "It's All Geek to Me," during which he calls two guys out of the audience to answer questions about the "wrong things" some guys know. Stroili's point is better, and more hilariously, made without this trite gimmick.


"Straight Up With a Twist," Gem Theater, Grove Theater Center, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends May 19. $18.50 to $22.50. (714) 741-9555. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

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