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NZ International Comedy Festival: Squidboy - review

May 14, 2014 Theatre

Trygve Wakenshaw

The Herald Theatre
Tuesday May 13, 2014


For a good period after the scheduled start time of 7pm, many of the opening night audience, many of whom had comps, were still wanking around in the foyer of the Herald Theatre. That complaint sort of has nothing to do with the show, but it sort of does, because it points to the fact those people were behaving like dicks.

It also meant the Squidboy’s creator and star, Trygve Wakenshaw, had to win over a good number of pissed off people who had already sat crunched into the ridiculous legroom-free rows of the Herald Theatre for about 15 minutes longer than expected before the show. That winning over took one word. The word was “Once” and it was the first word of the show.

When media tickets were first being arranged for the comedy festival, several weeks ago, I had tossed up between this show and British stand-up John Gordillo, who was performing at the same time. I’d settled on Gordillo because the festival guide said organisers had been trying to get him here for ten years. But last week a comedian suggested I ditch Gordillo and go to Squidboy instead, and because I am easily swayed, I did.

While waiting last night for much of the audience to self-importantly late-seat themselves, I had leaned over and said to my wife that I thought Squidboy had a PR problem: that it sounds so odd, so wacky, so divorced from the stand-up most people associate with the festival, that not many people will be prepared to risk their cash on it.

“Maybe you should wait until you’ve seen the show before you pass judgement,” she said. I told her that wasn’t the point. She told me I was sitting too close to her and she’d rather I didn’t breathe on her. I told myself this was because I had a cold. The point is, we were both in a pretty poor frame of mind.

But then the lights came up and Wakenshaw, dressed as a strange fisherman, with his arms outstretched, said: “Once,” and used his face and body to elicit a laugh from that meaningless utterance, and my wife and I both relaxed and so did the rest of the audience. We knew we were in safe hands.

Almost nothing is as important at a comedy show as having trust in the performer to make you laugh. If you trust them, you can relax, and if you relax, they can relax, because you are more likely to laugh, and that makes them more likely to make you laugh.

Squidboy is not new. Wakenshaw performed it to acclaim at the Auckland Fringe last year. It’s plenty weird, with its central ‘fisherman dreaming of being a squid / squid dreaming of being a fisherman’ conceit. But it’s cleverly constructed, brilliantly original and he’s so assured in his ability to elicit laughter that you will wonder why you thought seeing another stand-up was the safe choice.

Also on Simon Wilson on Tryvge Wakenshaw’s Kraken: “Funny? My god yes.”


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