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.


NZICF 2017: Romesh Ranganathan – Irrational

Though Romesh Ranganathan is relatively new to the comedy scene, he has already achieved so much. With multiple panel show appearances, sold out shows in the iconic Hammersmith Apollo and a BAFTA nominated TV series under his belt, he has come a long way from his former career as a maths teacher.

In Irrational, Ranganathan makes a meal of poking fun at the various things in life that he takes issue with. From ingeniously accurate observations to outrageously ridiculous thoughts, he has the crowd effortlessly in fits of laughter. His incensed rant about Wagamama’s shared tables style of dining was a particular highlight and crowd pleaser.

Over the course of the hour, we get to know Ranganathan – his family, his pet peeves, what makes him tick. He regularly talks about his three kids (the brazen way in which he berates them is so bad it’s good), shares the downsides of hanging out alone (especially at the cinema watching a children’s film) and his struggles as a Sri Lankan ‘coconut’ (the key to his success on TV). He is also not afraid to veer in to controversial territory, smoothly managing to find the humour in the taboo.

Ranganathan’s greatest strength is his innate ability to take what most of us are already thinking – whether consciously or not – and bring it to light in the funniest possible way. His fervent ranting monologue is punctuated by regular interaction with the crowd which add a layer of dynamism to the routine.

Irrational is highly accessible, exceedingly funny and is observational comedy at its best. It is an easily enjoyable running diatribe of the every day that is the perfect mix of cynical and comical.

This was one of only two shows Romesh Ranganathan performed in Auckland. To find out where he is performing next and when he will be returning to our shores, check out his website.


NZICF 2017: Markus Birdman – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

To do a stand up comedy show sitting down is pretty gutsy but if there is someone who can pull it off, it’s Markus Birdman. For those already familiar with his work, you’ll know he brings something quite different to the table and this new offering is no exception.

Every year a momentous event in Birdman’s life becomes the catalyst to crafting his shows. When he found himself buying his twelve-year-old daughter her first bra, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was inevitably born. This year’s show has a more spoken word feel to it however there is still plenty of his gasp and guffaw inducing irreverent style of comedy to go around.

Written as a means of imparting advice to his daughter, this show is largely based on the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale and unfolds in the form of a visual story book. The amusing and comical narrative is divided in to twelve scenes with Birdman playing the narrator.

This year his signature illustrations come to life with the incorporation of quirky animation and comic voiceovers. In between each vignette, Birdman weaves in candid moments from his life, namely his pursuit as both a comedian and an artist as well as his affectionately facetious relationship with his daughter.

While she may have been the impetus, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, at it’s core, is about finding oneself. It is a thought-provoking, delightfully compelling and inherently personal piece that is not your average comedy show but one you should definitely not miss.

Markus Birdman is performing at The Classic until 6th May and the Fringe Bar in Wellington 9th – 13th May. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

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.





NZICF 2016: Urzila Carlson – Unacceptable

Urzila Carlson

New Zealand’s favorite South African import Urzila Carlson is no stranger to the comedy circuit, having great crowd-pull every time she puts on a show. If you’re a ‘repeat offender’, as she puts it, you know your laughing muscles are in for a workout.

This year’s offering, we are told, is about celebrating the smaller things in life and equally openly recognizing when something is unsatisfactory. After a fleeting encounter on Facebook where Carlson discovered the power of the word ‘unacceptable’, she decided she was going to apply it to everyday life and consequently Unacceptable was born.

The show is essentially a collection of things in life that Carlson deems acceptable and unacceptable. Over the course of the hour, she shares her opinions about school sports, working in hospitality and ‘those green garden chairs’ to superb comedic effect, easily garnering many knowing, agreeing laughs. She also incorporated a crowd round to hear what we thought which added a brilliant interactive element to the narrative.

Considering the premise is largely about airing grievances which could have given the show a whiny tone, it is anything but. Even when she reveals an unexpected turn in a particular story, it does not significantly dampen the mood. This is all down to Carlson being an effortless entertainer with a well-honed comedic eye.

Carlson’s style of comedy is easily relatable and incredibly personable which is a big part of her appeal. She has an innate ability to deliver her material in a way that she instantly connects with her audience. She also has no qualms laughing at herself and her idiosyncrasies which is what forms the charm of the show.

Unacceptable is an exceedingly enjoyable hour of skilfully written, extremely witty comedy that will have you in stitches from start to end. Carlson is a gifted and accomplished comedian who is an utter delight to experience and an absolute must-see.


Unacceptable is on again tonight (May 14th) at SKYCITY Theatre at 7pm. Due to high demand, an extra show has been added after the festival on May 21st at 8pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.