NZICF 2018: 5 Star Comedy Preview

The well established 5 Star Comedy Preview is always a great precursor to the NZ International Comedy Festival for punters and novices alike. This year’s showcase boasts a solid lineup of rising stars in the international circuit, returning favorites as well as more seasoned acts.

The Mexican bundle of energy that is El Jaguar was our dynamic host of the evening’s festivities and boy is he good at it! He is a natural entertainer and uses his jovial persona to easily keep the audience engaged and in high spirits, even managing to orchestrate an impromptu Mexican wave complete with party props.

After such a lively start, Ian Smith‘s easygoing style of comedy is the ideal first act to ease us in to what we’re all there to do – have a good laugh. He makes the usual run-of-the-mill humorous quips about being a first timer to NZ but where Smith really hits his stride is when he regales us with an amusing anecdote about the time he went dog sledding. He has a clear penchant for storytelling which leaves you only wanting to hear more.

Phil Wang is up next and if you hadn’t heard of him before, after his comic routine of recurrently introducing himself, you’re unlikely to forget his name. While making fun of one’s heritage is not a new thing, there is something quite refreshing about Wang’s approach. He uses his mixed parentage to great comedic effect, nonchalantly poking fun at and playing to popular stereotypes.

It’s quite satisfying to see a seemingly unassuming comedian totally hold their own onstage and this is what Lauren Pattison did. Don’t let her svelte stature and sweet persona fool you – her comedy has bite. From her lament about looking young to how she found herself a foster mum at the zoo, she had us lapping her every word.

Rounding up the first half is the irreverent Fin Taylor. He forewarns us at the start that his comedy has been described as provocative which is a pretty accurate assessment. We get swept up in Taylor’s impassioned rants which hurtle along at breaking speed; his harrowing tale about a spinning incident in particular had the crowd between horrified gasps and side-splitting guffaws.

NZ’s favorite Welshman Lloyd Langford is back and kicks off the second half. There is always something about NZ that bewilders Langford and this year it’s infomercials. His deep Welsh brogue just pairs so perfectly with his delightfully deadpan delivery which made his anecdote about a massage gone wrong even more hilarious.

The always well-dressed Jimmy McGhie, another Festival favorite, is up next with a solid set about how different generations view the world. His observations on the baby boomer generation in particular are so funny only because it’s so true and resonated with the audience. McGhie’s ability to find the funny in life’s hard truths is what makes his comedy so enjoyable.

Last to take the stage is Andrew Maxwell who draws you in effortlessly with his brand of sharp comedy and social commentary in that distinctive Dublin drawl. He is enjoying being back in NZ, or “Polynesian Scotland” as he likes to call it. Being a self-professed news junkie, Maxwell’s material is largely topical, though for this set he pays particular focus on Australia’s lack of newsworthy news.

Once again the 5 Star Comedy Preview delivers a solid night of laughs which will leave you hungry for more. To get a taste of the international comics that are on our shores for this year’s Festival, this is a great place to start.

All these acts have solo shows at the Festival in the coming weeks – click on their names for more info. Some of them are also performing at The Big Show and Comedy All Stars at the Bruce Mason Centre. Go check ’em out!

 

NZICF 2017: 5 Star Comedy Preview

A pre-festival staple for over sixteen years, the 5 Star Comedy Preview is a mammoth show featuring a generous lineup of some of the international acts that will be performing over the next few weeks. With such a smorgasbord of comedians on the bill, there is something to suit everybody’s palate.

This year’s showcase is compered by Jimmy McGhie who is a fitting host, easily warming to the crowd with his ‘medium posh’ English charm. In between playing emcee, he engages in friendly banter with audience members (paying special attention to someone with a massive bag of crisps) as well as share what annoys him about being single in his 30s.

Interestingly the theme of the evening across most acts, whether intended or not, was predominantly about growing up and married life – or otherwise. This made for quite a cohesive show with each act seguing smoothly in to the next.

First up is Iain Stirling whose devious and twisted sense of humour coupled with that Scottish twang make for a highly entertaining set. His anecdotes of a racist baby and the fun that can be had as a pensioner is made all the more hilarious by his vivid and animated storytelling.

Adam Hess is next who came prepared with a list of fun facts about himself. His hurried repartee and frenetic persona will keep you on your toes – don’t let his seemingly haphazard demeanour fool you though, he has some comedic gems up his sleeve.

Lou Sanders takes to the stage with a quiet confidence and her conversational style draws you in immediately. Her short stories about the world for children and ploy for how she gets men to remember her at parties demonstrate her cheeky, off-kilter brand of comedy.

Closing the first half is Ismo Leikola, who won our hearts last festival with his quirky observations and delightful Finnish inflection. His comic thoughts on the every day garners laughs effortlessly and he uses the fact that English is his second language to great comedic effect.

Returning festival favorite Chris Martin kicks off the second half giving us a more lighthearted perspective on married life including being a gifted ‘mum whisperer’. His upbeat, slice-of-life observational style and amiable charisma give him the most universal appeal out of everyone on the bill.

Markus Birdman, another returning Kiwi favorite, takes the stage next with a self-assured swag and forewarns us from the get-go of what to expect in his set. His material is audacious yet disarmingly clever and though he had pre-empted us, there are comedic surprises along the way.

If jokes about one’s nether regions are not your thing, Ed Gamble might just change your mind. His entertaining and animated monologue about his trip to the doctor opened the audience to new ways of describing ‘whipping it out’ and had everyone in stitches.

Making his NZ debut, seasoned comic Hal Cruttenden closes the show on a high with his jovial candour and his misleading ever-so-camp disposition. His humorous lament of being in his 40s and amusing stories of his Northern Irish wife were thoroughly enjoyable.

It’s hard to pick favorites in this year’s 5 Star Comedy Preview as it was such a stellar group with a bit of something for everyone. Whether you enjoy your comedy bite-sized, tapas style or you just want a preview of this year’s international talent, your laughing muscles will be in for a workout.

To find out when all these comedians are performing, check out the Comedy Festival website. Some of these acts will also be performing in The Big Show and Comedy All Stars.

 

 

 

for

NZICF 2016: 5 Star Comedy Preview

5 Star Comedy Preview

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.

5-stars

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.