NZICF 2016: El Jaguar – In Fiesta

El Jaguar

Clad in a wrestling mask and revealing outfit to boot, El Jaguar is quite the silly sight to behold. He takes to the stage with gusto and excited vigor however this is short-lived as he promptly tells the audience that the show has reached its peak and to lower their expectations.

This self-deprecating view of his abilities – which he even graphs visually for us – is punctuated by his desperate need to please and this becomes the source of much of the entertainment in the show. Though there are a few awkward moments and there isn’t really any tie-in or reason behind the costume, for the most part In Fiesta is an enjoyable affair.

2015 was the worst year for El Jaguar and consequently he wants to focus on living a life that is filled with moments of joy, happiness and laughter. Thus El Jaguar is hosting a fiesta and we are all invited to join in on the festivities. The hour is spent planning and preparing for what he describes will be an ‘anti-climax’. Crisps are shared, party poppers passed around and we get to know each other along the way.

The strength of this show lies in the crowd banter that takes place. At its core the show centers around and thrives off crowd interaction and Derek Flores, the man behind this masked maverick, pulls this off admirably. He is a skilled improviser and incredibly quick-witted, seamlessly engaging with the crowd and bringing everyone together through their responses.

In Fiesta is absurd as it is amusing, celebrating the good and bad in life in the form of riotous antics and festive merriment. It is a lighthearted, off-the-cuff comedy that is loads of fun, wildly frenetic and gleefully exuberant.

4-stars

In Fiesta is on until May 14th at the MonteCristo, 53 Nelson St at 8:45pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

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NZICF 2016: Ismo Leikola – Observing the Obvious

Ismo Leikola

The title ‘Funniest Comedian in the World’ – awarded to him at an international stand up competition in 2014 – is quite a reputation to live up to. This is Ismo Leikola’s New Zealand debut though judging by the turnout, he looks set to be a Kiwi favorite.

Leikola takes to the stage in the most unassuming, cordial way and the crowd immediately warm to him. His awkward disposition coupled with his seemingly anxious tics and fidgety mannerisms are endearing and all part of the show’s idiosyncratic charm.

Observing the Obvious unfolds as a series of concise and witty observations of the everyday things in life – including comical stories from his marriage – that amuse and baffle him. The brilliance of this show lies in Leikola’s perceptive ability in exposing and poking fun at the often illogical, blatantly apparent aspects of life that have been hidden in plain sight.

Silent letters in English words, the dichotomy of ethical eating, toilet signs and even the humble earthworm all get given new perspective. The audience are consistently reminded of his Finnish roots as he openly fumbles on words and draws cultural comparisons, effectively playing the ‘bewildered foreigner’ to humorous effect.

Though there were a few lulls, they seemed to be more from the audience not picking up on the more subtle jokes than anything else. He recovers from these moments well, either simply moving on or sometimes even playfully explaining to the audience what we missed.

Observing the Obvious is an offbeat, excellently crafted hour of quirky and insightful one-liners that pack a comedic punch. Ismo Leikola’s undeniable dexterity at this style of comic misunderstanding, especially with English as his second language, is impressive and a must-see.

4-stars

Observing the Obvious is at The Classic at 8:30pm until May 14th with an extra earlier show (at 5:30pm) on the last day. The season is already close to selling out so get in quick before you miss out! For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: George Egg – Anarchist Cook

George Egg

George Egg likens the art of anarchist cooking to that of casino card counters, the difference with him being the ‘best practitioners don’t get caught’. Fueled by a desire to best over-priced hotel food, he decided to come up with innovative solutions to creating meals within the limited means of a hotel room.

Anarchist Cook blends cooking with comedy to form a unique and fascinating concept of a show that is part engaging discourse, part cooking demonstration. The stage is set to mirror a typical hotel room which Egg uses to impressive effect to effortlessly whip up three appetizing courses.

Over the course of the hour, hair dryers, towel rails, irons and coat hangers take on new meaning and purpose. Egg has the audience completely captivated as he proves that anything is possible with a little bit of creative thinking and a can-do attitude.  From making cheese in the bathroom to flipping pancakes over an upside-down iron, this really is anarchist cooking at its best.

In between the chopping and poaching, Egg keeps the audience entertained and engaged with lighthearted banter as well as amusing food-based material. His genial, good-humored persona and enthusiasm for what he does is endearing; before we know it we too are invested in his plight and excited for what is coming together in front of us.

Anarchist Cook will give you an entirely different outlook on cookery and the boundless culinary potential a hotel room has. It is a brilliant premise that is deliciously crafty, delightfully ingenious and has to be seen to be believed. Be ready to soak in the smells and bring your appetite with you.

5-stars

Anarchist Cook is on at the Herald Theatre at 7pm from May 10th – 14th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Lloyd Langford – Just The Right Level of Welshness

Lloyd Langford

After a successful debut season last year, Lloyd Langford is back on our shores with a new show. Just The Right Level of Welshness, he explains, was a prematurely selected show title and that really it should have been named ‘Rascal’ so as to tie in better with the theme of the show: pleasure.

Langford’s material was made up of sharp and witty observations about a range of topics which included terrorism, kinky sex games and even the weather. His deadpan delivery in that distinctive Welsh brogue pair brilliantly with his mildly self-deprecating sense of humor and is a big part of the show’s appeal.

Having spent some time in New Zealand, a significant portion of his set is spent sharing with us the things he has discovered from his travels. He fondly pokes fun at the things that amuse him like our nonchalant attitude towards living with volcanoes, our ‘flag debacle’ and the Kiwis’ commitment to providing their guests with some good tucker. There was also a hilarious bit about the Mad Butcher which was a particular crowd-pleaser.

Langford also imparts some fascinating facts he has acquired due to his thirst for attaining new information. From sex fetishes and bizarre cosmetic procedures to what the native kakapo are doing wrong which is causing them to be extinct, his desire to be well-informed added another comedic element to his routine.

Just The Right Level of Welshness is a solid repertoire of superbly crafted observational comedy that is delightfully engaging and exceedingly entertaining. Langford’s easygoing style along with his intelligent, humorous musings make for an easily enjoyable hour.

5-stars

The Auckland season for Just The Right Level of Welshness is at The Classic from May 9th – 14th at 7pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Paul Douglas – True Detective

Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas wanted to be a part-time comedian and part-time detective when he grew up. Unfortunately the latter has not quite come to be although he has been to one potential crime scene.

True Detective is an hour of amusing anecdotes from Douglas’ life which eventually culminate to the day he got to realize his dreams of becoming a detective. The show starts with a hilarious dilemma he faces while in a trampoline park with his nephew which subsequently becomes the springboard for further stories.

McDonald’s characters are discussed, drinking habits are assessed and a joke about skid marks leaves quite the impression. Douglas is a confident and adept storyteller, seamlessly moving from one tale to the next. He plays off the crowd’s reactions well and his affable persona make him easy to engage with.

The highlight of the show is the final story where a routine visit to his grandparents’ turns hairy. Armed with his hangover and a group of ‘free range geriatrics’ for company, Douglas gets the opportunity to play detective. The narrative is engaging enough with many comical parts and an excellent finish though I felt it could have been not quite so drawn out and a lot tighter.

True Detective has many laugh-out-loud moments with some great punchlines and clever use of wordplay. It just needed more detective material. That aside, Paul Douglas’ keen comedic eye and his witty often sarcastic style of humor made for an entertaining hour.

3-stars

True Detective is on for another two more nights (until May 7th) at 10pm at The Classic. It then heads to the Cavern Club for its Wellington run from May 10th – 14th at 8:30pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

 

NZICF: Joel Creasey – The Crown Prince

Joel Creasey

Joel Creasey is hell bent on being famous – this is the over-arching theme of The Crown Prince. A video montage at the top of the show which featured his many TV appearances in Australia and beyond indicate that he is well on his way to achieving that goal.

This is Creasey’s New Zealand debut and though the evening’s crowd is relatively small, this doesn’t dampen his spirits in the slightest. He instantly warms to the audience with his quick wit and humorous candor; you could just tell at that point that you were in for a good time.

The show is essentially an unashamed bitching session in which he shares and moans about his recent experiences. Many anecdotes centered around his funny and sometimes outrageous celebrity encounters like being besties with Playboy bunny Kendra, feuding with Russell Crowe on Twitter and obsessing over former Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters in his teenage years.

From amusing recollections of his time on Australia’s I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! to a horrifying-yet-still-hilarious breakdown and one night stand following a breakup, there are plenty of comedic gems to be found in his routine. He delivers all these effortlessly in rapid succession and with a sass and self-deprecation that is irresistibly entertaining.

The Crown Prince is a fast-paced, deliciously irreverent hour of anecdotal comedy that will keep you hooked from start to finish. Creasey’s acerbic brand of humor along with his animated, conversational storytelling style and personable disposition make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

4-stars

The Crown Prince is on for two more nights (until May 7th) at 8:30pm at the Herald Theatre. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Tessa Waters – WOMANz

Tessa Waters

What happens when a star falls in love with a rock and they merge? A self-loving, fun-loving, ready-to-party sexually liberated goddess called WOMANz is born.

When Tessa Waters first takes to the stage, we are confronted with art thrown at our faces, comical demonstrations of ‘stagecraft’ and talking vaginas. There is a nervous energy and slight confusion in the air as the crowd try to work out what exactly it is we have signed up for.

WOMANz is a scintillating, uninhibited hour of boisterous, raucous and audacious merriment punctuated by energetic dance and riotous repartee. It is a celebration of life, love and womanhood among other things. Along the way this goddess from the stars teaches us the walk of glory, crumping and even allows time for some (optional) solo crotch appreciation.

Waters took great care in involving everyone in the night’s shenanigans while still being respectful of people’s personal boundaries which is not usually typical in this sort of show. Thus though this show is probably not for everyone, even if you are more shy and reserved, you can stay right in your comfort zone. This mirrors the over-riding message of the show, that the important thing is to ‘do you’.

Waters is the consummate stage performer who uses quite literally everything in her arsenal to put on a stomping good show. Her energy is infectious and you can’t help but be seduced by her charisma. This larger-than-life character she has created is vivacious and undoubtedly cheeky yet still manages to come across endearing and in some ways relatable.

WOMANz is deliciously risqué, fabulously facetious and wildly entertaining. It is a frenetic and exuberant physical comedy that no words can fully encapsulate – just go and experience it for yourself! (You’re welcome.)

4-stars

WOMANz is on at the Montecristo, 53 Nelson St at 9:45pm until May 8th. The show then starts its Wellington run in the Fringe Bar at 8:30pm from May 10th – 14th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Jimeoin – Yeehaa!

Jimeoin

Jimeoin is bad with names, thinks his wife is nasty and has many abandoned cups of tea around his house due to his forgetfulness. These are just a few of the many amusing things we learn about him during this show.

Yeehaa! sees Jimeoin do what he does best: find the funny in everyday situations. In his words, the theme of the show is, “What’s it all about?” and in essence this holds true. Over the course of the hour, Jimeoin gives us his comedic take on the mundane and often silly things that take place in life.

The show is essentially an observational monologue made up of a collection of elaborate stories as well as shorter anecdotes with the occasional tangent thrown in to the mix. He delivers all these seamlessly and in such a casual manner yet it is clear that each story – and even digression – has been thoughtfully placed and expertly timed for maximum comedic impact.

What takes this show to another level is that trademark physicality which he brings to his performance. If you’re familiar with Jimeoin’s work, you’ll know that this is an integral part of his comedy. His signature comical facial expressions in particular are always well received and add another layer of hilarity to his material.

Yeehaa! is a solid and excellently devised hour of sharp, witty observations that is consistently funny and easily enjoyable. Jimeoin has an innate, impressive ability to impart humor both verbally and physically that is a pleasure to experience.

5-stars

Yeehaa! is on until May 7th at 7pm at SKYCITY Theatre before heading to Christchurch for one performance only on May 8th at the Isaac Theatre Royal at 7:30pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Wes Barker – Stunt Magician

Wes Barker

Considering his fame – appearances on America’s Got Talent and MTV, a win on Penn and Teller: Fool Us and 28 million YouTube views – Wes Barker comes across remarkably down-to-earth. Stunt Magician is quite a unique experience in that it is as much about the performer as it is the magic.

Barker tells us from the start that this is a not a ‘dove, dove, fireball’ kind of magic show which is accurate. The show is more low-key by nature and does not have the flashy pizzazz that is usually prevalent in magic shows but this unassuming quality is part of the show’s charm.

The show does take a while to kick in to gear but once Barker warmed up and gained momentum, he had the crowd hooked. Over the course of the hour, bags were frisked, strangers magically read each other’s minds and an amazing, jaw-dropping ‘sword swallowing’ trick left the crowd stumped. His repertoire involved superb use of sleight of hand, astonishing illusions as well as some of the more common tricks but with a twist.

Barker’s amiable nature and charming disposition make him extremely likable which he uses effectively to easily win over the crowd. There was ample amount of audience participation and crowd interaction which is to be expected. The cabaret-style seating worked well with the show as it allowed for more casual banter.

In between tricks, Barker also weaved in some entertaining personal tales, showing that he is also an adept comedian. His anecdotes about an inadvertent boomerang accident as well as amusing conversations with his girlfriend had solid comedic value and enhanced the overall narrative of the show.

Stunt Magician brilliantly infuses magic, comedy and stunts to form an incredibly enjoyable and engaging hour. Wes Barker is a skilled magician and illusionist who will impress, surprise and leave you wanting more.

4-stars

Stunt Magician is on until May 7th in Auckland Town Hall’s Comedy Chamber at 7pm. It then heads over to Hannah Playhouse May 10th-14th for its Wellington season. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

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.