Words Jenanne Burnell

In order to have no preconceived expectations of the comedians I was about to see as my introduction to the 2018 NZ International Comedy Festival, all I knew about this show before attending it was it’s title. But even with a bold title like “The 5 Star Comedy Preview”, such that would naturally set anyone’s expectations to the roof, I was blown away with the quality of comedy.

But before the wonderful evening could begin my boyfriend Charles and I were forced to enter the rabbit warren that is Skycity on a Friday night. We found ourselves gasping like fresh caught salmon stuffed in a sardine tin as we tried to navigate the ridiculous foyer outside the theatre. Thanks Skycity.

But after we made it to our seats, the night could not have kicked off with a more delightful start. A small, red-masked ball of enthusiasm, tightly packed in to a confrontingly revealing red leotard, who I soon learned to be the fantastic El Jaguar, was our host for the evening. My favourite comedians are ones who can work with anything that is thrown their way from audience interaction, El Jaguar had me in stitches before the first act even came onto the stage. For me, El Jaguar was 5 stars in his own right.

The first comedian of the evening line up was Ian Smith, who alternative to El Jaguar’s introduction had more of a small pub stand up vibe then the outrageous spectacle that was our host. He brought the mood down to a more casual less enthused comedy, perhaps a little too abruptly. Admittedly as he was following on from a Mexican wave, streamers, party poppers and balloons (all of which had actually just happened), I was left feeling a little underwhelmed by Ian. But I guess I’m a sucker for an energetic spectacle and Ian came to the benefit of others in the crowd who perhaps weren’t quite ready for a party popper to the face just yet.

Following on from Ian’s tame comedy, my spirits were again raised as a familiar face to Charles entered our lives. None other than Phil Wang or as he introduced himself many times, Philly Wang Wang, Philly Philly Wang Wang. Now to see this written down looks childish, but there is a real talent that Phil Wang has with his delivery that is so fantastic to watch, he too had that theatrical spark that I love to see. Another great thing about Philly Philly Wang Wang was his unforgiving jokes about racial stereotypes, about his own cultural heritage and how others view the cultures he identifies with. Wang really stood out for me. I enjoy self criticism in comedy to the extent that you can appreciate the comedian is only going to these depths to push the boundaries and make people hear something they may never have before. But at the end of the day it’s just for laughs. This brings me to our next comedian.

Lauren Pattison was a refreshing female face to capture everyone’s attention with a shrill Northern UK accent (exact location obviously hard for me to pick). However I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed at the never wavering theme of self deprecation in her jokes. Obviously not all female comedians need to be feminists, but it was a little sad for me to see the only female comedian of the night use low self confidence as the only substance in her set. I get that self-deprecation is a ‘go to’ for plenty of comedians, and many in the audience likely loved her set, it just wasn’t for me.

Before the intermission, the first half finished and a huge high note with Fin Taylor sending the audience into a mix of bewilderment and hysterics. Finn Taylor was another clear highlight of my evening and Charles’ favourite comedian of the whole night. For us he has the perfect amount of vulgarity and seamless witt. Charles was expecting boundaries to be broken and Finn was the only comedian to tick that box for him.

Moving on the the second half, we were lucky enough to end on three seriously strong comedians. Awkward comedy is difficult to pull off, but festival favourite Lloyd Langford is one such comedian that absolutely nailed this quirky awkward Welsh persona. Even following on from the firecracker that is El Jaguar, Lloyd made this stark contrast work perfectly in his favour.

Following Lloyd’s performance, I thought a well dressed member of the audience had somehow found his way onto the stage by accident. Jimmy McGhie is definitely not the sort of character I was expecting to pop onto the stage. Gen X as he liked to point out, Jimmy was like your older brother’s best mate who had all the best travel stories but is now an investment banker. That or a movie star. Either way, Jimmy exuded confidence and with good reason. I enjoyed everything Jimmy had to say and his whole set was absolutely seamless. It was one of those acts that you didn’t want to end.

The final set of the evening was hit home by a man (in his own words), with a ‘lesbian hitler haircut’ none other than Andrew Maxwell. Another strong act to finish to show who still managed to crack a lot of laughs from me even though I was exhausted at this point in the evening. To which our Mexican fiesta friend El Jaguar unsurprisingly was able to ramp my spirits back up again for me to leave the show feeling as energised as I was to start with. Having the privilege to see these incredibly talented comedians had me looking up tickets for the next shows in this years Comedy Festival as soon as I got home.