Old Mout Cider Comedy Gala Review
It was a veritable smorgasbord of comics served up for your entertainment at the launch of the New Zealand International Comedy festival in Auckland.
21 in total - including the impish and anarchic host, Irishman Jason Byrne. He got off to an anally obsessed start and there were concerns that this was to be his obsession throughout, but thankfully, scatalogical humour was soon sidelined for a geniality that impressed as a host and a repartie that thrived on audience interaction and an uncertainty over what was to come next. (Complete with Wrecking Ball opening that had the audience in stitches) I'd be interested to see what a show he provides as being an MC is a completely different role to having a solo show, but with a quick wit and clever insight, he's clearly got an edge to watch.
It has to be said as well, that for the most part, the international visitors had the edge over the local comics - from the glee of Reginald D Hunter, who's making his first visit to New Zealand and seems genuinely thrilled to be here to last year's crowd favourite James Acaster (with some popular material from last year), there was a frisson of something different about them.
That's not to say the locals didn't put up a good fight - from last year's Fred Award, Jarred Christmas' obsessions to Guy Williams' taking his virtual war against Bishop Brian Tamaki into the real world, there was something for everyone at the opening. Samoan contender for any kind of Rat Pack revival James Nokise intoned how twerking was pooing in an earthquake in Samoa, before turning R&B tunes into reality. (Seriously, that guy always looks so damned smart wherever he goes). Show closer Rhys Darby got dangerously close to jazz ballet thanks to his finely honed pins and some silly physical comedy over theft and pickpockets.
It's good to see Jamie Bowen back on the comedy scene here, after a UK imposed absence which has done his brand of edginess no harm and provided material aplenty. His deduction of how life is like a box (not of chocolates though) belied a ferocious intelligence that burns still brightly.
Elsewhere, Rose Matafeo and Urzila Carlson flew the flag for the female contingent with both musing on life but on completely different tangents. Matafeo used her awkwardness to channel one of the best vibrating phones I've ever heard and Carlson put the fear of goodness into anyone ever planning to leave food on their plate again.
While there were some insights into the human condition (mainly from abroad) - UK Stalwart and top performer Steven K Amos rued the role of spokespeople , John Gordillo talked gay marriage and generational misunderstandings, US comic Reginald D Hunter got inside the Oscar Pistorius case in a way no-one else had - others settled for the smaller details in life.
UK comic Carl Donnelly mused on how a crumpet nearly killed him but veered off into a discussion about who drills the holes in the top and Brit comedienee Sara Pascoe talked irrational fears to comic ends. Aussie Steve Hughes very nearly lost the audience with a few edgy comments about the missing flight MH370 but showed how his dangerous skewed view on life can be a good thing if you like darker moments.
Aussie comic (and Super Mario Bros impersonator) Sam Simmons' bread obsession nearly got the better of the audience in a few moments of complete absurdity and Tom Binns as psychic Ian D Montford brilliantly and perfectly managed to send up those who make a living from psychics and their general vagueness. But audience interaction with 2 people left you wondering if he had some real skills on this front or whether they were plants. Still, he marked himself out as one to watch.
Paul Ego, Ben Hurley, Marcel Lucont and Nick Rado completed the line up too; all offering something different and providing more comic for your dollar seemed to be the way forward for the night, occasionally leading to a feeling that the bird was over-stuffed with goodness and that 4 minutes for each was just not enough.
There are certainly plenty of offerings in Auckland and Wellington over the next few weeks as the festival kicks in and it's worth getting in among the mix to get a giggle or two as the dark nights draw in.
For more on the NZ Comedy Festival and to book tickets, visit their website.