NZICF 2017: Donna Brookbanks – Cat-Lady-in-Waiting

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.



NZICF 2017: Jimmy McGhie – Apologia

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.

NZICF 2017: Adam Hess – The Best of Adam Hess

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.

NZICF 2017: Tony Lyall – Happy Hour

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.


NZICF 2017: Rhys Nicholson – I’m Fine

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.

NZICF 2017: Ed Gamble – The Best of Ed Gamble

It’s Ed Gamble’s first time in NZ and he is loving it so far, especially Kiwis’ laidback attitude. At the top of the show, he breaks the Fourth Wall and engages in some pleasant get-to-know-you banter including a guessing game which involved different audience members. This little exercise certainly broke the ice and helped ease the crowd in to the show.

As a young, unmarried and childless comedian, Gamble professes to have not much to worry about. He does, however, tend to panic about who he is and most notably when faced with persons of authority. His accurate but inappropriate answer to the TSA officer on why he was in the States is woefully hilarious and gives an early glimpse of his sense of humor.

From openly poking fun at his own forgettable ‘undercover Mormon’ face to an entertaining rant about the hardships of living with a messy girlfriend, Gamble’s material has solid comedic value. He intermittently analyzes the audience’s reaction – and takes his opportunities to ‘reset’ when the response is not what he had hoped – which add another dynamic, humorous element to the show.

The latter half takes on a more ‘nether-region-y’ feel which Gamble does apologize for though is unnecessary as this is where he hits his stride. Not everyone can make stories in this realm genuinely amusing but he does this seamlessly. One particularly harrowing story about discovering a stray hair in the most unlikely place had the crowd in fits of laughter.

The Best of Ed Gamble is a consistently funny hour of the comical episodes and mishaps that he finds himself in that is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone. Ed Gamble may have started as part of a duo but he is an adept comedian in his own right and definitely one to watch.

Ed Gamble is performing at The Classic until 6th May. He will also be at the Wellington Rowers Club on 14th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2017: Gordon Southern – Long Story Short

The saying goes ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. For Festival regular Gordon Southern, when life threw him an unexpected curveball by way of his father getting dementia, he decided to boldly put a comedic spin on it. Thus Long Story Short was born.

While we have been privy to some personal moments in his life from previous works, Southern has not quite dedicated an entire piece around one let alone a parent’s dwindling health. This is a bit of a departure from his usual offerings though returning punters will be pleased to know his trademark fun facts and raps do make an appearance.

Over the course of the hour, Southern candidly shares fond memories of not only growing up with his bantering Scottish father but also their relationship today with the disease in tow. In between he weaves in amusing stories from his early days as a drama student (which include a hilariously ill-fated bottle of milk incident) as well as the lengths he puts himself through to oblige his vegan, fitness-obsessed wife.

Southern’s greatest strength is his delightfully mirthful stage presence. He is an excellent storyteller and natural entertainer – no doubt thanks to that drama degree – and you can’t help but just be swept away by his excitable energy and comic shenanigans. The evening’s crowd was unjustifiably meager but he doesn’t let that put a damper on the proceedings.

Long Story Short is a wonderfully high-spirited and moving piece about finding the funny in a not-so-funny predicament. Gordon Southern is undeniably a master at his craft, using dynamic storytelling along with his jovial disposition to create another deftly written, easily enjoyable hour.

Gordon Southern is performing at Q Theatre until 6th May then at the Cavern Club in Wellington 9th-13th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2017: Ed Byrne – Outside Looking In

Ed Byrne is a household name in the international circuit and is no stranger to Kiwi comedy audiences having toured NZ multiple times over the years since 1996. This year he is back to celebrate his 20th anniversary and there is definitely a sense of familiarity in his delivery – it’s evident he knows how to play to Kiwis.

Outside Looking In comes to us on the heels of playing to sold out houses all over the UK this past year and consequently there is a very seasoned feel to it. Over the course of the show, Byrne candidly shares anecdotes from both his professional and personal life, from the last time he died on stage to early dating mishaps. He has no qualms with laughing at himself – even heckling his own work at one point – which add to the show’s spirited charm.

Byrne’s animated storytelling is effortlessly engaging, incorporating clever wordplay and witty exchanges, all perfectly timed to achieve the maximum comedic impact. He also uses questions he has asked audiences at other gigs as a springboard to spark conversation with us however much to his knowing amusement this more often than not ends up being one-sided.

Though it is very much a show about Byrne a lot of what is talked about is extremely relatable and this is indicative in the chorus of appreciative laughs that far outweigh the opening evening’s more intimate crowd. His self-disparaging sense of humor along with his affable Irish charm come together seamlessly to form a highly entertaining routine.

Outside Looking In is an absolute comedic delight – brilliantly crafted and deliciously self-deprecating with not a dull moment to be had. Ed Byrne is an accomplished comedian whose keen observational style of comedy is guaranteed to give your laughing muscles a workout.

Ed Byrne is performing at the SKYCITY Theatre until the 6th May and at the Bruce Mason Centre on the 10th May. He is also doing a show at the Theatre Royal Nelson and Napier Municipal Theatre on the 9th and 11th May respectively. For more details and to book, click here.

NZICF 2017: Iain Stirling – The Best of Iain Stirling

Iain Stirling has acquired quite the resumé with numerous TV credits, voiceover work and even a BAFTA win under his belt. Being a new face at this year’s comedy festival, he seems genuinely surprised at how many people have come to see his opening show.

Stirling covers a range of things from the topical to the comical but mostly the show is about himself. This may sound a bit conceited and self-indulgent but it is anything but; he is incredibly easy to listen to – you can’t help but be instantly drawn to his charismatic personality and jovial disposition.

Over the course of the hour, Stirling’s upbeat and entertaining commentary about things like the costly house prices in the UK, society’s obsession with emojis and his humorous definition of the ‘proper English tourist experience’  are brilliantly crafted, revealing his sharp wit and self-deprecating humor. Even when the vibe gets a bit awkward due to a particularly inebriated audience member he takes it in his stride, never once losing control of the room.

The more personal stuff from Stirling also provide solid comedic value and were clear crowd pleasers. One particular highlight was a mortifying incident to do with his humble mezzanine apartment in London which broke down any allusions of grandeur he may have had in relation to his relative fame.

The Best of Iain Stirling is a wonderfully brash, unashamedly narcissistic and consistently funny hour of witty repartee. Stirling’s amiable charm make for an easily enjoyable experience that is the ideal late night comedy treat.

Iain Stirling will be performing at The Classic from 4th-6th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here. He can also be seen performing as part of an ensemble lineup in The Big Show and Comedy All Stars.

NZICF 2017: Ismo Leikola – Observing the Obvious…Still

After a sell-out season at last year’s festival, Ismo Leikola is back on our shores to delight us with more of his quirky observations. His Finnish drawl is the perfect vessel for his uniquely perceptive commentary on the peculiarities of life that we either take for granted or hadn’t noticed before.

Observing the Obvious…Still is essentially last year’s show revisited. If you’ve been, most of it will ring a bell however such is the strength of the material that it is still funny the second time as it was the first time. His brilliant quip of why he loves NZ weather seems to have become his standard opening line and rightly so as it gets an enthusiastic response every time.

The key to Leikola’s success is he is incredibly likeable. From his childlike fist pumping to his endearing musing pauses as he moves from one thought to the next, you can’t help but be drawn in to his whimsical world where there are silent numbers and whales play hide-and-seek. His casual, low-key style makes it feel more like he’s conversing with friends rather than a room full of strangers.

Being from Finland but living in America, most of his material is framed through outsider’s eyes. Many things about American culture and the English language baffle him and he shares this with us to humorous effect. At one point, the show turns in to a bit of an English class momentarily as Leikola gives us a hilariously informative lesson on the complexities of the word ‘ass’.

Observing the Obvious…Still is still just as good as its predecessor with some extra goodies thrown in for good measure. Ismo Leikola’s signature brand of comedy is an entertaining cultural exchange in which you learn some, laugh lots and heartily look forward to the next one.

Ismo Leikola will be performing again at Q Theatre on the 8th and 9th of May. This show WILL sell out so get in quick! For more details and to book tickets, click here.