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.