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Comedy review: All Stars First Night at the Bruce Mason Centre

Apr 27, 2013 Theatre

NZ International Comedy Festival
Comedy All Stars First Night (
Stuart Goldsmith, Elis James, Andrew Bird, Markus Birdman, James Acaster, Chris Martin)

Bruce Mason Centre
April 27, 2013

At some stage during the Comedy Allstars First Night at the Bruce Mason Centre last night, one of the six UK-based comedians did a bit about knocking on doors and running away, in which he asked the audience what we call that here. “Burglary” someone in the audience shouted out and the crowd erupted, maybe one of the biggest laughs of the night. The comedian put his microphone down on the stage and applauded. “If you’re going to heckle, make it a quality heckle,” he said.

It doesn’t need me to tell you that the burglary line wasn’t especially funny – would anyone have laughed if it were delivered by one of the comedians? But comedy is about the unexpected, and nobody expected Barry from Milford to crack a half-decent joke from row three.

Less unexpected was that last night’s six comics were all roughly young-middle aged, middle class white men from the UK, almost all dressed in sneakers, jeans and untucked casual shirts, and they all got up and said a series of funny things about the sort of thing that goes on in the life of that sort of person.

Some of these stories were funny but since they were all coming from such a familiar pool of girlfriends and mates, drinking and dogs, the risk of drowning in the sameness was high. Many did.

When James Acaster made his low-energy entrance not long after interval in grey slacks and a blue jumper over a tucked-in dress shirt, it was easy to sit up. Here was someone at least a little different.

After one soft early bit about skywriting, he built a brilliant set around his self-claimed Twister skills, seeding excellent jokes that he harvested later, including a killer ending about people’s tendency to unnecessarily include others’ race in their stories.

Low energy deadpan can sometimes just be a mask for weak material. But Acaster was funnier than the mask and by the second half of his set, deep into a bit contrasting flirty Twister with competitive Twister, the mask seemed to be gone altogether, seamlessly integrated into the material. That was unexpected.

All six comics were at worst decent, and all got good responses from the Bruce Mason Centre crowd, but it was Acaster who brought something different, and that difference turned out to be less about style and more about being really, really funny.


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