NZICF 2017: Rhys Mathewson – Rhys Classic

Rhys Mathewson started his career in comedy at a young age and has accomplished a lot over the years. Most notably he is the youngest comic to be awarded NZ’s prestigious Billy T and Fred awards, a fact which he shamelessly slips in during the show whenever he deems it necessary.

There’s one thing that Mathewson has not quite managed to master yet though and that is conquering the marketing and social media game. That and doing tech for himself which though unorthodox provided great comic relief. Rhys Classic is the product of his plight to discovering what his comedy brand is, which he ponders and talks through with the audience.

Over the course of the hour, Mathewson reflects back on his past like the pivotal moment he became a comedian and also talks about his hopeful choice of clothing for his future self. He recounts the time he played improv games at a friend’s funeral and how he resorted to a self-imposed sexual harassment charge as a result of being home alone all day.

A highlight was Mathewson narrating a hilarious email exchange between himself and a council representative to do with being inconvenienced by the Auckland Marathon. His ongoing, unabashed facetiousness which builds in each message is highly amusing and reveal his quick wit as well as irreverent sense of humor.

He may not know how to sell his shows but he sure knows how to market himself on stage. Rhys Classic is another solid offering from Mathewson; his assured bravado and seasoned comedic instincts come together brilliantly for a consistently funny hour.

Rhys Mathewson will be performing at The Classic until 20th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

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NZICF 2017: Brendon Green – Best Friends

Life is going great for Brendon Green at the moment. At 32, he is in his first long-term relationship and after putting in the time and by sheer tenacity he is proud to have successfully befriended his girlfriend’s rescue cat Tilly, the most introverted and timid cat in the world.

Green loves writing short stories which he used to bond with Tilly, performing said stories to her (his harshest critic, no less) as a way to win her over. Consequently Best Friends was born, a delightfully charming and engaging monologue about friendship illustrated through three Tilly-approved vignettes.

Over the course of the hour, we are brought on an exhilarating journey of theatrical and fantastical proportions with tales spanning from childhood memories to holiday misadventures. The strength of this show lies in Green’s ability to tell a story which he does effortlessly; each narrative is perfectly paced and delivered with impeccable timing and charisma.

There’s no denying that Green is a skilled and eloquent raconteur. Whether it was a fast-paced account which mirrored his fervent vaulting on a trampoline or a moving anecdote involving his grandma and her trusty dog Shaggy, he has the audience completely transfixed and hanging on to his every word.

Best Friends is a heartwarming and compelling experience that will give you all the feels – it will make you laugh, gasp, ponder and maybe even shed a tear or two. Cat person or not, this wonderfully devised and riveting piece is sure to warm the cockles of your heart.

Brendon Green is performing at the Backbeat Bar on 100 K Road until 20th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2017: The Fan Brigade – Don’t Ask The Fan Brigade

Livi and Amanda, the two vivacious ladies that make up The Fan Brigade take to the stage with a gusto and bravado which far supersede the cosy space they are performing in. They instantly win the crowd over with their cheeky opening banter – you just know you’re in for a cracker of a show.

Don’t Ask The Fan Brigade brings us more of this dynamic duo’s trademark tongue-in-cheek and unabashedly risqué brand of musical comedy. Their opening number berating a boyfriend that watches too much porn gets the gasps and guffaws going from the get-go and is the perfect taster for what is to come.

This year’s repertoire boasts a deliciously saucy setlist that include a satisfying rhyming track about their visit to the RSA, a “Lana Del Rey-ish” ballad about shitty exes and a side-splitting song detailing the horrors of having sex in a public toilet. In between tunes, they deliver comic commentary on several hot topics and at the ’40 minute slum’ they even throw in an interactive game show for good measure.

It’s unquestionable: Livi and Amanda are a talented pair who complement each other superbly. They are a triple threat – gifted singer-songwriters, engaging performers and adept comedians in their own right. Every tune is melodically sound and has been deftly crafted with excellent witticisms and clever wordplay which pack a comedic punch.

Don’t Ask The Fan Brigade is a whole lot of fun – it’s brilliantly bawdy, fabulously facetious and exceedingly entertaining. If you’re looking for something a bit different at the Festival and are not easily offended by off-color humor, this riotous and wildly audacious hour is the ticket.

The Fan Brigade are performing at the Backbeat Bar on 100 K Road until 20th May, with an extra later show on the last day. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2017: Chris Martin – Ol’ Smarty Pants

“This is nice comedy, not mean comedy” Chris Martin tells an audience member just before the show kicks off – this sums up his brand of comedy to a tee. Ol’ Smarty Pants is the kind of show that’s incredibly accessible, one which you can totally just sit back and enjoy.

A lot has happened since Martin was last in NZ three years ago – he is married, he’s moved to the US and he’s finding it harder to make new male friends in his 30s. This quest to find the platonic version of ‘the one’ is the springboard which he leaps from, self-disparagingly sharing with us his anxieties and inescapable desire to please people.

Over the course of the hour, Martin regales us with snippets across his personal, social and married life where his worries and idiosyncrasies have gotten in the way. We can’t help but endear to him as we hear about him stressing over a text conversation with someone who’s a ‘reply-in-a-while-er’ and the time he signed up for what turned out to be oddly like a doggie version of Tinder.

Martin’s effortless ability to put a humorous spin on his perceived character flaws keep the show lighthearted and not too over-indulgent and though much of what he talks about is personal to him, he still manages to make it relatable. We are also treated with brilliantly silly puns as a result of his irresistible urge to deliver a pun no matter how lame which provide another comedic layer to the narrative.

Ol’ Smarty Pants is another solid offering from Chris Martin that is immensely enjoyable, disarmingly witty and is his best solo show yet. Considering the show is about his anxious disposition, Martin is an assured, accomplished comedian that will keep you engaged and entertained from start to finish.

Chris Martin is performing at The Classic until 20th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2017: Hall Cruttenden – Straight Outta Cruttenden

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.

NZICF 2017: Marika, China & Lauren – P.S. We Also Love Cats

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.

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.