By Romina Monaco
The secret to great comedy is the timing as well as the delivery of a punch line. As irony would have it, stand-up comedian, Enrico Rennella first hit centre stage he was delivered into this world on April Fools’ Day, 1982.
“The family called my father to go to the hospital but he actually didn’t believe my mother was in labour. He thought it was a joke and didn’t show up until the next day”, laughs Rennella.
Although the signs from above could not have been any clearer, it wasn’t until recently that this young man from Naples chose to follow his spiritual path and venture into the world of stand-up comedy. After arriving on Canadian soil in 2011 from his native Italy, Rennella has - in a relatively short period of time - managed to fill the theatre halls of the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Windsor and Montreal. Modern and whimsical tales of a young Italian immigrant’s adventures in Canada bridges the gap between generations of Italian Canadians – where audiences relate to the mutual trials and tribulations of life as well as a collective immigrant story. These personal experiences along with his undeniable wit and boyish charm have made him one of the hottest tickets in town.
“I remember the first time I met a fellow Neapolitan here in Toronto”, Rennella tells a lively audience at the City Playhouse Theatre in Vaughan. “The first thing I did was check my watch to make sure it was still on my wrist!”
Poking fun at his culture is just one element of his comedy act. His flamboyant Neapolitan mannerisms reflect ethnic diversity while his fiery, satirical monologue inoffensively addresses social, religious and political issues. Rennella refers to himself as a one-man show, singing and dancing on stage while interacting with members of his audience. Having embarked on his journey as a professional comedian only two years ago, he has made remarkable strides.
“I’ve faced many obstacles and hardships in my life but once I chose to pursue this dream everything became effortless and doors just starting opening for me”, he explains. “I haven’t reached the pinnacle yet but I have grown a lot in two years. Things are going very well and the community has been very receptive.”
However, life hasn’t always been easy for Rennella, who had to learn about perseverance and self-reliance at too young an age. Born of Italian expatriates living in France, he left home at the age of fourteen, living homeless for a time on the streets of Paris. One year later, after working at various odd jobs mopping floors and washing dishes in local restaurants, he saved enough money to procure his first apartment. In his later teens he found more stable employment in retail and night club management.
“I basically grew up by myself. I had to learn to survive and be self-sufficient. I didn’t have any guidance so I learned about life through trial and error” he shares with Whatever Vaughan.
Comedy became somewhat of an escape for Rennella. During his twenties his reputation for making people laugh landed him modest gigs in both Italy and France. However, a full-time career in the volatile entertainment industry only seemed like a distant, unattainable dream. Not until he came to visit relatives in Toronto did he realize that there was a large Italian community proud of its cultural identity and just waiting to embrace his particular style of comedy. Having now permanently laid his hat in the city of Vaughan, Rennella dedicates all of his time to this passion.
“I love what I do because I create my world - my own reality. Even as small kid I would entertain everyone around me. I’d stand on a chair and start telling a joke”, he says while reflecting back on his childhood. “Just before I go on stage I become very emotional because I can’t believe I have actually made this happen. I still feel like that little kid.”
It is befitting that his Canadian premiere was entitled Nu’Scugnizz’ A Toronto, which from the Neapolitan dialect translates to “An Urchin in Toronto”. Although this show was performed in Italian, Rennella has recently challenged his artistic ability by doing his first English-speaking engagement this past summer. We can expect more Neapolitan pageantry in his upcoming second show, L’Amore all’Italiana on November 15th and February 14th at Vaughan’s City Playhouse Theatre. Unlike his previous appearances which mainly consisted of Italian and Canadian cultural parodies, L’Amore all’Italiana focuses on one particular element of human nature – the banality of love within romantic relationships, family life and friendship as well as the foibles of falling in love.
As he continues to grow and develop his signature style, Rennella says he intends to perform across Canada and the United States adding that he would also like to bring comic relief to the masses by appearing in a television series. “We’ve forgotten that the easiest way to be happy is to live simply and laugh. I feel good knowing that I can make people feel better. This is what I was born to do”
Whatever Vaughan Magazine - Fall Edition 2013
"Art and Soul" written by Romina Monaco