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SHOCK VALUE AND CRINGE LAUGHTER IN CHALLENGING COMEDY

Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival
Diane Spencer: Tam Pompom


at Happy (Cnr Tory & Vivian), Wellington
From 20 May 2009 to 23 May 2009
[1 hr, no interval]

Reviewed by Priyanka Bhonsule (Hutt News), 21 May 2009


It's seems implausible to hear quite filthy things out of the mouth of someone so pretty but that's what you get when a middle class English white girl has gone through so much tragi-comedy in her life.

Diane Spencer is a force to be reckoned with: she comes out on stage in a girly outfit, she's got a soft voice and then bam! Before you know what's going on, genitalia, pleasuring devices and sexual acts have all been covered in the first few minutes.

Nothing is sacred, no subject is too taboo - the deaf, the blind, visual artists, foreigners, immigrants and more are covered in this blistering hour and a half act.

It seems because she's experienced some of the things above she has a right to mock it. For example, she dated a blind guy for a while; she's an immigrant; her dad's half deaf and so on.

Also, as a female comedian, Spencer says she can get away with certain jokes and that's true. Certainly no male comedian would venture towards menstruation or menopause without the possibility of alienating at least half his audience.

There is actually a storyline of sorts through the show as Spencer tells us why she moved here from her hometown in the south of England. It was for love and when that didn't work out she offers us the 'best bits' from her dating experiences as a woman in her late-20s.

The opening night wasn't a sell-out and while this offered a vibe of intimacy and a chance to develop rapport with the performer, it was easier to tell when a joke just did not float.

The best way to describe her show is 'cringe-laughter', where you're sitting with your jaw kind of half-open, hand over your mouth thinking, 'Did she just say that?' followed by, 'Oh my god that's true/ funny/ gross!'

Don't get me wrong - Spencer's set made me laugh; I just wasn't sure whether I was laughing at the humour or the shock value. Because the show is clearly all about the shock value. While other comedians test the water and then throw in a vulgar joke or two, this confident redhead dives right in.

If filthy words and situations make you squirm, best stay away; however if you like to be challenged by your comedy, if tried-and-true observational gags just don't cut it for you, then Spencer is your hot ticket.
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 James Amos