There are many comedians in the circuit who use narcissism as their schtick. Hal Cruttenden celebrates his high-strung ways and takes things to a whole new level with his jovial brand of intelligent and unexpectedly insightful observational comedy.
Straight Outta Cruttenden came about when Cruttenden hit his mid-40s and started listening to gangster rap as a means to manage the suppressed anger he has built up from getting older. This is the lure of his show – it delights in skilfully constructed comic twists, keeping you engaged and at the edge of your seat.
The most apparent thing about Cruttenden is his indelible camp persona and he unashamedly revels in it. The physicality he brings to his performance like his gesticulations and hilarious rhyming chants complement the merriment brilliantly. There is also a lot of good-humored banter with the crowd which he weaves in seamlessly, sometimes using it as a segue to another train of thought.
Cruttenden’s material covers a wealth of topics from subtle racism on TV shows to obsessing about the logistics surrounding his death. His Northern Irish wife plays a titular role in the second half (much to her disapproval) and the stories he shares about her ‘Irish-ness’ and married life are highly amusing.
The most gratifying thing about Cruttenden’s work is how it unfolds – his delivery is perfectly paced and impeccably timed. His ability to display perceptiveness amidst the comedy is also impressive, for example his commentary about social media and our obsession with displaying our pain to the world is achingly accurate.
Straight Outta Cruttenden is an expertly crafted, wonderfully neurotic and thoroughly enjoyable hour that packs a comedic punch. Hal Cruttenden is a joyously charismatic entertainer and undeniable seasoned pro – a definite must-see before the festival wraps up for another year.
Hal Cruttenden is performing at The Classic until 20th May (not 14th). For more details and to book tickets, click here.
This quirky ensemble show is a joint effort offering from Marika Jackson, China Gonzales and Lauren Mabbett with each one getting time in the spotlight. P.S. We Also Love Cats is an accurate title as cats definitely play a more fleeting role in the proceedings.
Token ‘exotic girl at the party’ Gonzales kicks off the show and is the undeniable headliner of this three-hander bill. Her discourse on being Mexican and how she’s living the dream in NZ with her Pakeha boyfriend in Grey Lynn is effortlessly engaging. She is also the only one of the group to reference being a (former) cat lady which was a highlight of her set.
Up next is Jackson with her observations on everyday, relatable topics like bathroom etiquette and flirting. Her awkward charm and naiveté juxtapose well with her idiosyncratic sense of humor. Mabbett closes the show regaling us with her struggle of being 31 and still learning “how to adult”. Her anecdotes of joining the gym and being put in the ‘S team’ for swimming are delightfully self-deprecating.
In between each set, the trio come together in a hilarious behind-the-scenes, space reversal type scenario which is a really clever addition to the narrative. These three ladies are talented comedians in their own right but the show possibly could have benefited with more group appearances because their energy as a collective adds another great comedic layer to the show.
You don’t have to like cats to enjoy P.S We Also Love Cats though it would have been nice to have more feline related material. That aside, this is still an enternaining show which will satisfy those craving for some late night laughs to finish their evening out.
Marika, China and Lauren are performing at Q Theatre until 13th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.
As everyone makes their way to get seated, we are greeted by Donna Brookbanks herself, stooped over a spinning wheel. This unexpected visual of someone working an ancient machine is a pretty clever metaphor of the quirky yarns that are about to be spun.
Cat-Lady-in-Waiting is an amusing and vivacious monologue centered around Brookbanks’ various struggles and insecurities as a single woman in her 30s. As the show title would indicate, she likens her idiosyncrasies to the usual clichéd hallmarks of a crazy cat lady.
While Brookbanks’ material has solid entertainment value, it is her unashamed social awkwardness that is the comedic pulse of this show. In addition the physical comedy which she incorporates through use of comic facial expressions and animated delivery add another humorous element to the narrative.
The show runs a bit short but it doesn’t feel that way as we get to know a lot about Brookbanks, including her sassy inner voice and Cat Stevens her cat. She also discloses that she’s bad with remembering names, she treats children in the same way she does her cat and she takes advice from her nana on how to catch a man – all of which garner laughs easily.
Whether you’re a crazy cat lady or you want to see a crazy cat lady in the making, Cat-Lady-in-Waiting is a bit silly, delightfully awkward and endearingly relatable. The only thing it lacks is more stories about her cat.
Donna Brookbanks is performing at the Basement Theatre until 13th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.
After a favorable NZ debut last year, Jimmy McGhie is back with more of his cynical humor and biting style of comedy. Apologia is essentially about the comic himself and his views on life through the lens of a privileged, not very opinionated Gen Y person who was raised under a dictatorship.
Along the way McGhie also regularly toes the line between making observations about the oddities of NZ culture and poking fun at them, like Kiwis’ reaction at comedy gigs and what we deem newsworthy. It’s a pretty audacious move that could have proven unpopular but his posh English inflection and magnetic charisma keep us easily engaged.
There is regular banter throughout with McGhie even giving out pet names to select audience members which foster a bit of camaraderie amongst the crowd and add a layer of dynamism to the show. From appreciative laughs to audible aww’s, this is a comedy show with barely a Fourth Wall and one you inadvertently find yourself getting involved in.
McGhies’s material is delivered largely in the form of a fervent tirade yet the show somehow still manages to be quite upbeat and lighthearted. His penchant at deviating in the build up of a story only to reveal a punchline that ties it altogether is impressive and incredibly satisfying.
Apologia is a solid and enjoyable offering from Jimmy McGhie that will have you hooked from start to finish. It is a gloriously sardonic and self-deprecating hour that is clever, compelling and consistently funny.
Jimmy McGhie is performing at The Classic until 13th May and is doing one show at the Wellington Rowers Club on the 14th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.
At the top of the show, Adam Hess doesn’t instill the crowd with much confidence disclosing that he is still feeling jetlagged but will try his best. We quickly learn that this is all part of his persona and exceptionally quirky brand of comedy.
Hess tells us that the original theme for the show had to do with his fiancé and their impending wedding that ultimately never happened. What we are treated with instead is a seemingly erratic yet pleasantly entertaining monologue of random thoughts and hilarious snippets from his life.
The laughs flow steadily and the hour flies by with Hess delivering gag after gag in rapid succession. A lot of his material highlights his idiosyncrasies which he unreservedly makes fun of. In between he also weaves in facts about himself – some he admits are unfunny but clever – which again illustrate his wonderfully deprecating humor.
Hess’ self-proclaimed weird family make regular appearances, particularly his hypochondriac, religious mother which only serve to endear us to him more. There are also a couple of more long drawn out stories, like a harrowing incident involving a rowing boat and a leotard, that got a great reaction from the crowd.
The Best of Adam Hess is an enjoyable medley of concisely written comedic gems that is engaging, eccentric and frequently funny. Hess’ breakneck speed delivery and likable candor make for a delightfully frenetic hour.
Adam Hess is performing at The Classic until 13th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here. You can also see him as part of The Big Show.
Everybody loves a good happy hour. Tony Lyall has set high expectations on himself with a show title like that and thankfully he delivers, even doling out beers to sweeten the deal.
Happy Hour is a curated off the cuff offering which looks at the various things in life that make us happy. At the top of the show, Lyall invites the crowd to call out suggestions of things to discuss over the course of the hour which he writes on a blackboard.
It’s quite cheeky, getting your audience to contribute to what will be the show’s “set list”, but then again he does stipulate that the show is our happy hour. The challenge to having your show set up in this way is having a wealth of material to back it up which Lyall does in spades.
From his annoyance to people who stay awake for no good reason to how running turned into a potential murder-suicide, Lyall’s material is sharp, engaging and consistently funny. Despite the impromptu arrangement, he does manage to take the nominated topics and cobble together a routine that is surprisingly cohesive.
Happy Hour is a cleverly crafted, enjoyably improvised show that boasts excellent comedic value. Tony Lyall’s exuberant energy coupled with his relatable style of tongue-in-cheek humor make for an upbeat and easily entertaining hour.
Tony Lyall has finished his run at the Comedy Festival. For more details and to find out when and where he will be performing next, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
From the moment Rhys Nicholson takes to the stage, he mercilessly makes fun of said stage, revealing to the audience his brilliantly sardonic sense of humor. Just like his personal style, his brand of comedy is sharp, smart and memorable.
I’m Fine unfolds as a fast-paced and cleverly concocted monologue about Nicholson himself, covering a range of things like his school days as a ‘triple non-threat’, his idiosyncrasies and the time he covertly dismantled a ghost tour. His family’s mantra – to commit or to run away – is a running theme throughout which he employs when he is at a crossroad and uses to comedic effect.
In between the hilarity Nicholson adds unexpected depth to the show, weaving in social commentary on topical issues like racism, society’s expectations of beauty and mental health. On the other end of the spectrum there is also material on the bawdy side which may not suit everyone but his rapid speed delivery is such that you would barely have time to be shocked or offended.
Nicholson’s biting wit and facetious comebacks hit the nail on the head every time, effortlessly garnering laughs. The show’s comedic pulse is largely down to Nicholson’s dexterity as a comedian but it is also due to his scintillating personality that you just can’t help but be drawn to.
I’m Fine is quick fire stand up that is deliciously sassy, fabulously tongue-in-cheek and endlessly funny. This jam-packed hour takes you on a whirlwind ride of immensely side-splitting proportions that will have you hooked from start to finish.
Rhys Nicholson is at Q Theatre until 6th May and at the Wellington Rowers Club on 7th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.