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HE HAS MOMENTS

Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival 2012
GUY WILLIAMS in ON THE VERGE OF NOTHING


at Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff St, Mt Victoria, Wellington
5 May 2012

Reviewed by Maraea Rakuraku, 6 May 2012


I'm way outside the Guy Williams demographic.  Well that's what I think as I look around at the predominantly 20-something, pākehā male, bursting at the seams Tararua Tramping Club that probably hasn't seen this much action since Girl Guide meetings circa 1987. 

Sure the gig is entry by koha – which he says means Māori for free (idiot) – but by crikey, either all these people are his family, old school mates, facebook friends (all of them) or he really is that good. Sure, I'd heard vague things about The Jono Project but I've never actually seen him on it.  Though, one time I did catch an episode when the shameless, in-your-face Dakota, NZ's Next Top Model, was mocking herself. That shit was funny.   

He reminds me of a poor man's version of Hugh Laurie (Blackadder's King George) – I wish. No, not Greg House either.  Think more the character in the Ang Lee version of Sense and Sensibility. His delivery is deadpan and emotionless – that's where the similarity ends – as he rolls out over and over stories and observations. 

The single time he cracks a smile is when he's riffing on the Prime Minister's name and even then it seems to be because he made it up on the spot and is celebrating his own cleverness.  But then it's always hard to tell. The act really is everything.  Everything is the act.

The audience is eating this stuff up, and it's not just the person whose laugh is close to what I suspect is a constipated neighing horse.  I look around to check.  Is a constipated horse in here?  It's hard to tell because they heart him. Hardout.  It's everywhere.  I just don't get it.  I don't get why they love him so much and it feels like I have gained entry to a parallel dimension where sarcasm could quite easily turn nasty (think Paul Henry without the maturity; no strike that – just think mean).  The crowd is in some kind of rapture. Have I unknowingly entered The Rapture?

He's a hater, emanating private school boy but without the boofy, get pissed bravado.  Twice he brags that his job is to “just make people feel awkward”. What, a way to make a living.  He just seems like a socially awkward shy kid who has morphed into a socially awkward overly sarcastic adult. 

He drops names.  Really? This is New Zealand.  No-one cares.  I look around again.  Every single guy is riveted. WTF? Do they actually care? They either want to be him or they want him.  Maybe both.  Either way. Boring.

The crowd goes mental when he holds up a picture of Seal and says ['punchline' deleted-ED].  You're kidding me, right? Lame. I'm actually starting to think this guy can do no wrong and now I am starting to wonder who I find lamer: him or the audience.

He has moments. The NZ-specific stuff for instance.  Jabs at Starship, warnings from Wellingtonians about Auckland, music – though I don't get the Nesian Mystik dig. The Feelers seem more worthy of that honour. I actually think his style of comedy is better on-screen than live. 

There's something very manufactured about it. Finally, towards the end, I figure out why I'm finding this oh-so-very-painful and why a 45 minute set feels like 8 hours and it's because I've heard it all before.  Only it was better the first time but hey he is only in his 20's. Though that doesn't explain – or does it? – the way the audience has responded and when I catch glimpses of older patrons, troubling.

He can get better.  I have no doubt he will; the structure is there and obviously so too is the fan base. After seeing this gig I get why comics operate under aliases – it's to separate yourself from the onstage persona.  The thing with Guy Williams is that I'm not actually sure where that line is or if indeed there is a line.

When it's over the applause is off the radar, there's even some foot stomping and they are gagging for more. The smiles are wide and genuine, especially mine as getting slapped by the cold Wellington air is more preferable than sitting in there any longer.  
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Comments

TJ McDonald posted 6 May 2012, 09:56 PM / edited 6 May 2012, 10:42 PM
 

Frankly, I think this a terrible attempt at review.

It becomes obvious upon reading the piece that Guy Williams performed a sold out solo show that the overwhelming majority of the audience clearly enjoyed - be they human or horse (On the topic of constipated neighing horses - sometimes it's best to leave the jokes to the professionals).

The fact that this reviewer didn't enjoy the show is unfortunate, but they have clearly admitted in the piece that they were in a tiny minority who didn't have a good time. 

So given that the show was clearly a success, I find it incredibly bizarre that this piece is so damning.

The 'reviewer' even makes a point of how they are unfamiliar with Williams' work on national television. It's embarrassing. That's like a music reviewer attending a gig and making a point of being completely unaware of the band's previous work. 

If I was to take a guess, It seems to me to be just another example of a novice comedy reviewer letting their personal subjective comedic bias overwhelm their ability to write an objective, even handed review. It's a Sweetman-esque level of comedic review failure.

I think the most insightful part of this review occurs on the second line of the fifth paragraph, when the reviewer says "I just don't get it."

That much is obvious.

Eli Matthewson posted 6 May 2012, 10:41 PM
 

I admire a reviewer who actually has a strong opinion, but this seems like less of a review and more of an attack. What horrible things to say about a young comic, especially one that is this talented and a great guy to boot.

The fact that you "don't get the Nesian Mystick dig" says wonders.

Not cool.

Joseph Harper posted 7 May 2012, 10:45 AM
 

what's with the disdain for the audience? i thought reviewers were kind of there to represent them. seems rough.

i also think it should be noted that some of these things are simply untrue, and therefore the associated perjoratives are undue. eg: guy never said koha, "means Māori for free" (great sentence). he jested that performing for koha meant his show was "potentially free". major difference. one (the latter) is a piece of light-hearted housekeeping. the other (yrs) flatly denotes ignorance and vaguely implies racism. 

Corus posted 7 May 2012, 05:02 PM
 

I fully back this reviewer's refreshing honesty. It's also refreshing to have someone remind this army of callow young males who dominate the 'comedy' scene, and who are so used to mindless accolades, that there are swathes of potential audience out there who are less than impressed with what they do, and perhaps they should up their game if they want to get ahead.  (I also enjoyed the subtle humour in the review itself - which clearly went over the commentators' heads.)

Darian Woods posted 7 May 2012, 09:06 PM
 

this review makes being a socially awkward overly sarcastic adult seem like a bad thing :'( :'(

Calum Gittins posted 7 May 2012, 09:12 PM
 

This review: 'OMG I went to this Justin Bieber concert and there were all these young girls there... and they were screaming for him?!! I don't get it 'cause I love Metallica and he is real shit!! What weirdos! Why I was sent to review Justin Bieber is beyond anybody's guess but oh well!' 

Editor posted 7 May 2012, 10:25 PM
 

So Maraea went to this to review it in good faith with no preconceptions and was totally honest in her own response and in reporting that of the rest of the audience.  That's fair enough in my book.

I went along with Guy's request to edit out a 'punchline' she had offered as evidence, which may have been a disservice to her.

Anyway, most of this feedback helps readers assess whether it's likely to be to their taste when it opens in Auckland next week, competing with countless other shows, so all-in-all it's a contribution.  Just thought I'd add that.  

Maria posted 9 May 2012, 10:50 PM
 

Wow! What a damming review. 

NOTHING positive to say! 

How do I become a reviewer? Because I manage to find good things to say about this show and all the ones I've been to so far. 

We've got a great up-and-coming bunch of comedians (only have to look at all 5 of the Billy T noms, and all the others who are just as good) and we should be supporting them in one way or another. 

You can accept that it's not your thing, but what good does this review do? It tells us that you didn't like it, but others did.. but they had bad laughs so we probably shouldn't listen to them. 

Josh Thomson posted 10 May 2012, 11:25 PM
  You hit the nail on the head. You are way out of the demographic. Guy Williams is at the forefront of the new wave of ironic anti-comedy in New Zealand. It is fresh, modern and is a delightful change from the standard pub fare that is overly spelt out with "here's the punch line now" gags. It is a difficult style to master because a lot of people don't get it, and near impossible to hone because you can't get experience performing like this because punters continuing their after work drinks at the comedy club want to hear jokes about how men and women are different. For those hoping to see Guy, he is a master of the style. He is very, very funny. You won't know why you are laughing. That is the genius of it. It's funny because it's not funny. It's funny to name drop NZ celebs because they aren't worth name dropping. It's funny to deliver a terrible punch line with a crumpled up A4 printout because it's so shit. It is literally on the verge of nothing, hence the title of the show. For those of you wanting to see a new sense of humour, Guy is a must see. While I personally found the review offensive (revealing punchlines, revealing incorrect punchlines implying racism etc.), ironically it is a good indicator to see the show. Old people don't get it.
Stewart Lund posted 7 Dec 2012, 05:47 PM
 

I have seen Guy Williams live and on TV, and he is very funny! This reviewer offers no critical feedback, only personally attacking statements. Frankly, I think it is only fair that Guy now mocks this reviewer at every one of his shows!!