NZICF 2016: Le Comique – A Night of Surprises

Le Comique 2016

For the uninitiated, Le Comique is a raunchy and riotous affair offering a smorgasbord of unconventional delights for those after something a little bit different during the comedy festival. As well as some good ol’ stand up, this year’s eclectic lineup included music, clowning, cabaret and even a spot of dessert.

The fabulously sullen French flâneur Marcel Lucont was the fitting host of the evening’s audacious and outrageous festivities; his misanthropic observations were the perfect accompaniment in between acts. We were also treated to some excellently improvised songs derived from audience requests with the help of the on-stage house band as well as his unashamedly risqué sex poetry.

Rose Matafeo was first up with her usual style of conversational comedy laced with sarcasm. From cat cars to cynical Christmas crackers, her set was easily enjoyable and a great way to kick off the show. Up next was 2015 Billy T award winner Hamish Parkinson whose awkwardly comical though less-than-kosher attempt at seducing an audience member was met with amused trepidation and shock.

Musical duo Fan Brigade was one of my favorites from the night. These talented ladies combined comedy and crooning to fabulous effect with their hilarious tongue-in-cheek song about sexism. Anarchist cook George Egg closed the first half amazing the crowd with his ingenious ways and innovative solutions to whipping up meals using very limited means.

After the interval, the evening revved up with the arrival of the terrifyingly unpredictable comedy-monster, Red Bastard. There was absolutely no barrier between audience and performer as this cult sensation had the audience at the edge of their seats, and at one point even running from them.

The Artist (Formerly Known As Jesse Griffin) was the penultimate act of the evening; his utterly ridiculous entrance revealing the ‘unholy trinity’ was so absurd it was brilliant and had the crowd in hysterics. Welsh comedian Lloyd Langford took to the stage convinced he was there due to a booking error yet his anecdote about a kinky night he spent in a hotel room was an appropriate fit and finale to the evening.

From the eccentrically offbeat to the downright bizarre, Le Comique is a dazzling and scintillating evening which celebrates the weird and wonderful world of alternative comedy. This is the ideal mid-comedy festival treat, particularly for those with a more adventurous palate.

5-stars

Hamish Parkinson, Fan Brigade, George Egg and Red Bastard have solo shows at the festival. Check out comedyfestival.co.nz for dates and to book tickets.

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NZICF 2016: Arj Barker – Get In My Head

Arj Barker

Arj Barker has attained, as he puts it, ‘avocado level of famous’ which he has come to discover is not all it’s cracked up to be. The show title is an apt allegory as his candidly delivered material give us a first-hand insight into his mindset and thought process.

Barker takes to the stage with an assured, laid-back confidence that comes from his many years in the comedy circuit. He says he strives to impart a universal, inclusive message in his shows and this definitely holds true. His observations are not overtly exaggerated but surprisingly relatable, posing intriguing and extremely valid points which resonate well with the audience.

Throughout the hour, we are treated to a well-polished set that contain an abundance of comedic gems. Highlights for me include his logic behind why adults should board planes before children and how recycling can be used to gauge if you’re an alcoholic.

Barker’s style is largely made up of long drawn out narratives which are masterfully set up and expertly timed to keep us listening in rapt anticipation before paving way to an impressive pay-off. One particular story about his five-year-old niece is so extraordinarily clever the only way to fully appreciate it’s genius is to be there to witness it yourself.

Get In My Head is a cleverly crafted hour of comedy that is subtly brilliant and impeccably paced which make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Barker is a skilled raconteur whose innate ability to spin a good yarn will keep you easily hooked – and laughing – from beginning to end.

5-stars

Get In My Head is on this evening (April 30th) at SKYCITY Theatre at 7pm before heading to the Opera House in Wellington for one performance only on May 1st. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

 

NZICF 2016: Lords of Strut – Chaos

Lords of Strut

Famous Seamus and Seantastic have a mission – to change people’s lives with dance. Made up of a series of comical skits in which these bickering brothers prance, leap around and strut their stuff, Chaos is all about the visual spectacle.

At the top of the show, the audience are invited to leave their troubles at the door (you can pick them up later), let loose and just have a rollicking good time. This talented double act are eager to please and their energy and enthusiasm is certainly infectious.

From impressive acrobatics to silly antics and boisterous tomfoolery, the material is satirical by nature, often veering between mild amusement and sheer lunacy. There really isn’t a specific narrative or direction to the show but this free-wheeling, unpredictable quality is what makes it exciting and engaging.

Cian Kinsella and Cormac Mohally, the lads behind the Lords of Strut, are natural stage performers, easily entertaining the audience with their impish charm and dynamic choreography. The highly theatrical style of their showmanship is an echo of their street performing days and work very well with the show.

Chaos is utterly absurd, wonderfully facetious and is the ideal late night comedy treat. The Lords of Strut bring together carny and cheek fabulously to form a high-spirited hour of riotous fun and frivolity.

4-stars

Chaos is on until April 30th at Q Theatre at 10pm then heads to The Fringe Bar for its Wellington season May 3rd – 7th at 8:30pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Felicity Ward – What If There Is No Toilet?

Felicity Ward

It’s a daunting and tricky task, putting a funny spin on mental health. What If There Is No Toilet? sees Felicity Ward not only take on this challenge but do it with effortless gusto.

At the top of the show, Ward reveals that she has been diagnosed with the ‘triple threat of mental illnesses’. Closely linked to this is a long-standing anxiety she’s had at the prospect of losing bladder control, hence the quirky show title.

Over the course of the hour Ward candidly shares her journey of living and struggling with her mental illness before her eventual acceptance that she needed help. She strikes the perfect balance between lively candor and well-crafted comedy, deftly infusing humor in to what is normally viewed as unfunny while all the same not shying from the reality of it all.

Considering the weighty subject matter the mood of the show is anything but. From a hilarious personification of her inner voice Beryl to how she deals with a ‘closing down sale’, you barely have time to catch your breath as the laughs are plentiful and constant. Ward is a skilled comedian who knows how to work the crowd, delivering well-honed, superbly timed joke after joke that had the audience in absolute hysterics.

Ward’s mission to use comedy as her way of removing some of the shroud that covers mental health is extremely bold and inspiring. What If there Is No Toilet? is a wonderfully uproarious and enjoyable hour that is joyously exuberant and endlessly entertaining.

5-stars

What If There Is No Toilet? is on until April 30th at the Herald Theatre at 8:30pm and then heading to San Fran, Wellington for just one performance on May 1st at 7pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Nish Kumar – Back with a New Show

Nish Kumar

After a sold out debut season last year, Nish Kumar is back in New Zealand to give us more of his signature left-leaning, topical comedy. In this year’s offering, his commentary focused particularly on the themes of history, colonialism and capitalism.

Kumar treats the stage as his personal soapbox, conveying his brilliantly perceptive observations in the form of a running diatribe. From current affairs to popular culture and everything in between, he tackled them all in rapid succession and to superb satirical effect.  

Hipster trends, gentrification, his idea for a Friends remake – these were just some of the things that got examined, mocked and ranted about. Some of his opinions were a little incongruous but always unmistakably witty and often punctuated with some really excellent punchlines.

Much of the entertainment came from witnessing Kumar unravel around certain topics. He would get increasingly animated and worked up but what was impressive was how he managed to strike the right balance of being relatable and cleverly facetious without appearing to be ‘just a raving lunatic’.

Back with a New Show is a sharp, energetic and frenetic hour of intelligent, insightful discourse that is highly accessible and frequently funny. His style may not suit everyone but if you do enjoy political humor that is also thought-provoking, you can’t go wrong with this show.

4-stars

Nish Kumar is performing at the Classic at 8:30pm until April 30th then from May 3rd – 7th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Stuart Bowden – She Was Probably Not a Robot

Stuart Bowden - Probs Not Bot

Physical theatre is often either farcical or brilliant and this modestly charming one man show by Stuart Bowden sits firmly in the latter camp. She Was Probably Not a Robot is a quirky and engaging sci-fi adventure about the end of the world and one man’s plight to survive.

The show unofficially starts as the audience are taking their seats though this isn’t immediately obvious. It is only when the lyrics in the catchy tune we are listening to start referring to what is happening in the theatre that we realize we are being serenaded live by Bowden who is just beyond the curtains.

This is a cleverly placed ‘easter egg’ to what is to come which is an unusual theatrical experience that is a little bit bizarre but a whole lot of fun. We learn that the world has ended and we have all died. Before we can even process this, Bowden goes on to explain to each one of us – to hilariously detailed effect – how we died. This off-beat kind of humor forms the comedic vein of the show.

Over the course of the hour, we are expected to suspend our disbelief and let our imagination soar. Playing both the world’s sole survivor as well as a friendly, other-worldly celestial being aptly named Celeste, Bowden uses the space effectively along with clever use of an audio recording device to take us on a surreal and epic journey.

With only a bare stage and very minimal props, this show relies heavily on the performing prowess of the actor which Bowden possesses in spades. As he sings, mimes and even ‘soars through the air’, it is clear he is a skilled storyteller and talented showman. The theatre essentially becomes his playground with no Fourth Wall or divide between performer and audience making this a fully interactive, immersive show.

She Was Probably Not a Robot is wonderfully whimsical, delightfully melancholic and irresistibly endearing – an absolute joy to behold. This easily enjoyable, thoughtfully poignant theatrical piece is sure to tickle at your heartstrings and funny bone.

5-stars

She Was Probably Not a Robot is on at the Herald Theatre at 7pm until April 30th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Daniel Sloss – Dark

Daniel Sloss

With regular TV appearances and eight consecutive sold out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe under his belt, Daniel Sloss is no stranger to the comedy circuit. At 25, it’s remarkable how much he has already accomplished though once you’ve seen him in action, you can totally see why.

It is his first time performing in New Zealand and I certainly hope it won’t be his last. Dark is essentially about Sloss himself – his travels, his opinions (there are a lot of them) and most notably his early years before he became a comedian. His family play an integral role in the narrative particularly his extremely brainy and liberal parents who provide a good source of comedy.

Sloss takes to the stage with a confidence and swagger that is well beyond his years. This could be seen as a little cocky – which he openly admits and proudly embraces – yet he promptly proves that he can walk the talk. From the word go he had us hooked and hanging on to his every word.

His material is skillfully constructed with superbly timed, pitch-perfect jokes that hit the nail on the head every time. He has a sharp wit and innate comedic sense which is second to none. There is also a physicality which he brings, particularly with his facial expressions, that add another layer of amusement to the show.

Sloss’ greatest strength is his ability to, put simply, tell a good story. Each anecdote segues smoothly to the next with every little detail having a purpose and placed strategically to build up to a pivotal point in the narrative. The scene in this moment was orchestrated and set up so brilliantly that even when it took an unexpected turn, it did not significantly affect the energy or mood of the show.

While there is certainly a lot to laugh about, there is also a lot of depth to the show. Sloss has some strong, contentious views which may rub people the wrong way but if you just take them at face value, the underlying message he is trying to impart actually holds a lot of wisdom and truth.

There’s absolutely no doubt about it – Daniel Sloss was born to do comedy. Dark, contrary to the title, is not overtly dark but is an excellent and inherently personal piece which is incredibly intelligent, unexpectedly thought-provoking and effortlessly entertaining.

5-stars

Dark is on at Q Theatre at 7:15pm until April 30th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.