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Comedy Review: Dan Nightingale

May 16, 2013 Theatre

NZ International Comedy Festival

Vault at Q
May 15, 2013

We are deep in the comedy festival now and I am not going to lie: I am tired. There are things I would probably have laughed at two weeks ago that I am now entirely unaffected by. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s healthy to watch this much comedy. Sometimes, the jokes make me feel dead inside.

What is comedy? As almost everyone knows, it’s a 30-something middle class white guy from the UK or US walking around a stage with a wired microphone, talking about girlfriends, sex and drinking, and making fun of New Zealanders’ inability to say their vowels properly.

Yeah, I know there are counter-examples – I’ve seen some of them over the past few weeks – but I didn’t come here to argue. I’m tired.

Dan Nightingale is a 32-year-old middle class white guy from the UK walking around a stage etc etc etc.

His show in the cosy claustrophobia of Q’s Vault ambled along with the familiar comedy rhythms: he made some vowel jokes and talked about visiting Queenstown, Nelson, Wellington. He made fun of his inexpert command of German and French and its application in trying to pick up women. He talked about drinking and hangovers.

It was a small crowd because it was a latish weeknight set in a small venue and because Nightingale is not well known here. It was hard going for the first half hour listening to this familiar guy doing this familiar stuff. My face got sore and I felt an oncoming headache from forcing myself to smile when my body didn’t really feel like it.

As the set went on though, Nightingale started to improvise more, joking around with a couple of younger guys and older women in the audience and improvising some self-critiques of improvised jokes. He chose to be gentle with a woman who yelled out something particularly unfunny.

He showed us his crappy bottom-of-the-line phone, shared affectionate stories of his two-year-old nephew, talked about how he desperately wanted to get married and have kids and how that desperation made it a lot less likely.

We got to know him and to appreciate him in the fullness of his character, which turned out to be idiosyncratic and interesting and not at all like everybody else. And once that happened, the laughter came much easier. Dan Nightingale made me like him, and at this stage of the festival, that’s pretty impressive.


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