New Zealand International Comedy Festival Gala: Review
21 years, eh?
Most people's 21st parties were drunken messes, awash in beer and regret.
Yet, the launch of the 21st annual New Zealand International Comedy Festival was a slightly classier affair at Auckland's mighty Civic Theatre (though I don't doubt the after party was any the less messy)
It was also one of the most jam packed galas I've ever attended with some 21 comedians on the bill, with the ever amiable hosting skills of MC Jeremy Corbett. Sure, it was compared to a speed date by the host himself and for the comedians, there's nothing worse than proffering up 5 minutes of stand up as a tantalising tease into their shows before heading off the stage.
It was very much a gala of two halves, with, I have to confess the international acts having the slightly upper hand. Though local acts like Ben Hurley, Dai Henwood and Urzila Carlson rocked on stage to raucous cheers from the assembled crowd as they trotted out some new and fresh material.
Last year's Billy T winner Guy Williams showed that a year hasn't dampened his comic prowess, and gave rise to the fact that this young comic is still clearly in the ascendance thanks to some sharply observed send offs and one word off the cuff remarks. Jeremy Elwood also demonstrated, once again that comedy doesn't have to be dumbed down, throwing out some topically sharp observations as part of his criminally short set time. Likewise, James Nokise, looking like a cross between a young Billy T and one of the Ratpack, really showed like he'd grown up comically since the last time I saw him at the festival. In fact, pretty much all of the locals shone. And it was great to see Ewen Gilmour's on form as well, making the Westie one to watch.
Even the Boy With Tape on His Face, who's back after performing at the Royal Albert Hall, showed he's not resting on his laurels. Granted, he did a mini skit that I've seen him do numerous times before, but thanks to some subtle changes, showed that tinkering helps and that comedy is an artform to be perfected time and time again.
Perhaps, though, the night belonged to the International line up. Maybe it's the prevalence of the NZ comics on the local scene and the likes of 7 Days that they feel so familiar (no matter how fresh and new the material is) but several of the foreign talent offered up new and exciting tidbits of comedy gold.
Stephen K Amos felt energetic and urgent in his short set; equally Idiot Of Ants (last year's winner of best international show) demonstrated why the quartet of sketch comedy is still going strong; the likes of James Acaster, Chris Martin, Markus Birdman, and Tom Gleeson I'd seen the night before at the 5 Star Comedy Preview, so it's fair to say their acts and material weren't quite as fresh as you'd expect, but they were nonetheless funny for it, holding audiences in their thrall in their alloted slot. The show was closed by Chopper who had the best exit ever, and showed there's still plenty of comic mileage in that thug yet.
The revelation of the night was undoubtedly Tom Green though - his surreal, angry ranting belied a universal humour which caught you slap bang between the eyes. There's just something transfixing about his intense attitude to comedy that will make his show a real must see for comedy connoisseurs.
The only complaint of the night, if I'm honest, is that there weren't enough female comics in the line up. Goodness knows there are a fair few playing the festival, so it's a real shame there wasn't the split on the stage.
But as 21st birthday parties go, this was a pretty spectacular one - and a great launch to the start of the NZ International Comedy Festival. Quite simply, get among it and get a giggle.