NZ International Comedy Festival: 5 Star Comedy Preview - review
April 23, 2015
The comedy started in the lift at SkyCity carpark on level P3 last night and the quality was low. It came, as did most of last night’s comedy, from a middle aged white man with an English accent. After a level or two, a discussion broke out in the lift about whether it could take any more people. “It takes 28,” somebody said, pointing to the sign: “Well I’m at least two!” the man said and looked around the lift with the joy of someone who has just unleashed a zinger.
I sincerely hoped that would be the last comedy I heard from a non-professional that night, but of course it wasn’t. Hecklers are almost inevitable at a big theatre like Skycity, and particularly for an omnibus show like this, which attracts a broad audience, often including people who don’t realise they’re not as funny as their partners repeatedly tell them they’re not.
Quality MC Joel Dommett riffed well with a particularly robust blowhard for a bit, but the blowhard increasingly thought he was part of the show and just became a pain in the ass. As an audience member, you have to tune it out, or hope the comedians do that for you. If they’re off and the heckler feels his input is needed to retrieve things, the whole situation is right on the precipice.
But luckily the comedy last night was pretty even. Not evenly great, but never dropping below the threshold at which you want to take the comedian backstage, give him a hug and gently say, “Let’s see if we can’t get you in a taxi to the airport.”
Of the eight comedians, the best were the ones that weren’t white Englishmen: Nish Kumar is English but is ethnically diverse, Craig Campbell is Canadian but lives in England and Lloyd Langford is from Wales but lives in an incredible and sometimes frightening world of sexual experimentation.
Nish Kumar took the well-trodden road of non-white person trying to get by in a white world that often judges him harshly. On a line by line basis it was pretty funny, but it also built towards a devastating argument that you could either laugh at or clutch onto as profound insight, and preferably both. The punchline of that argument was the best-constructed and funniest bit of the night.
Craig Campbell is just funny. He’s funny to look at, in his mannerisms, his delivery, his timing. But he’s also almost imperceptibly clever. In a lineup full of the usual middle-aged male humour of relationships and semen, he talked thoughtfully – using as illustration the purchase of timber and the significance of canoes – about what is culture.
Lloyd Langford delivered a tight and courageous tale of hotel-based self-pleasure that made no attempt to ground itself in reality but soared off into such a magnificent and well-refined story, with such fine detail, that by the end you didn’t discount that at least some of it could have happened, or that he wants it to.
It won’t be the end of the world if you’ve booked to see solo shows by others on last night’s bill: They’re all quality pros. But if you get to the end of the festival and you’ve been to a bunch of shows but not one of Campbell, Kumar or Langford, you have made some bad decisions.
NZ International Comedy Festival, to May 17. comedyfestival.co.nz