A show like this is always a treat simply because of the sheer variety of top-notch international acts you get to see. Outside of the comedy gala, this is a great way to get a taste of what is on offer at the festival.
Rich Wilson, the compère for the evening, certainly looked the part when he walked out on stage. Striking just the right mix of charm, confidence and crass, his self-deprecating material had a good smattering of funny and served as an ideal complement in between acts.
Lloyd Langford was first to kick things off. His likable nature and deadpan Welsh brogue paired well with his witty, and often spot on, observations about New Zealand. Next up was Harley Breen who was loud and brash yet skilled in garnering laughs through his clever use of descriptive wordplay to paint a hilarious visual image.
In contrast self-declared ‘little bit posh’ Londoner Jimmy McGhie took to the stage with a more quiet confidence about him. His well-crafted running diatribe about being in his 30s translated brilliantly with the evening’s audience. Meanwhile Angela Barnes’ set about drugs, dressage and dating had some great punchlines and reflected her eccentricity which I quite liked.
George Egg rounded up the first half with something a little bit different. Unconventional cooking demo with a dash of comedy, Egg showed us that elaborate meals are possible within the confines of a hotel room with a bit of creative thinking and a ‘can-do attitude’.
The second half began with Finnish comedian Ismo Leikola who, judging by the raucous laughter, was the clear crowd favorite of the night. His fidgety demeanor worked extremely well with his quirky observations about his home country and New Zealand, all of which packed a comedic punch. Nish Kumar followed with his charismatic, upbeat brand of humorous commentary about the things that amuse and annoy him in life.
Festival favorite James Acaster was next with his awkward yet assured style of comedy that Kiwi audiences have come to know and love. Canadian/Filipino comic Ron Josol – whose audience cheers closely rivaled Leikola’s – closed the night with a highly enjoyable set which included him adeptly poking fun at various Asian stereotypes (read: himself) which had everyone in stitches.
This year’s 5 Star Comedy Preview boasted an excellent lineup of accomplished comedians and was thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. If you want more bang for your buck, this international showcase is unmissable.
Lloyd Langford, Harley Breen, Jimmy McGhie, Angela Barnes, George Egg, Ismo Leikola, Nish Kumar and James Acaster have solo shows at the festival. Check out comedyfestival.co.nz for dates and to book tickets.