May 5, 2013 Theatre
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
May 5, 2013
A big part of the pleasure we get from good improvised comedy is having no idea what’s about to happen. The problem with that now, more than 20 years after we first saw Whose Line is it Anyway? is that we can often make a fair guess. We might not know the punchlines, but we can feel them coming, sense their shape.
There’s definitely some pleasure in that, but it’s a more restrained pleasure, a chuckle of acknowledgement, a ‘well done’ nod.
Improv isn’t all Whose Line-style games, of course. But Wayne Brady knows that people don’t come to see him for innovation – they come to see him partly for his svelte physique and sexy good looks, and mostly for his gift for improvised comedic songs, as seen on TV.
He started last night’s show with an improvised rap incorporating words gathered from the audience pre-show by his assistant and co-star Jonathan Mangum. He seamlessly rhymed words like existentialism and rhinoceros and orange within a clever rap about flowers. It was really good.
And he closed the show with a series of improvised songs done in the style of a series of musical icons – Creed, Rod Stewart, Prince – using audience suggestions written down pre-show. Again, really good.
And in between, he and Mangum did a whole lot of Whose Line-type games: one word at a time; props; the one where they perform a single scene in a whole lot of different genres. Some good, some not so good: that tightrope of improv.
Apart from a weird segment in the middle where Brady earnestly answered questions from the audience, it was all so familiar, like a Sunday night at home with an episode of X Factor, which was the tempting alternative.
I’m not saying I would have preferred that, because it is quite a different pleasure, but it was wet and windy in Auckland last night and by 7.30pm, when I had to leave home for the show, I had just finished a warming curry. If I’d had the box set of Whose Line at home, I would have been just as happy.