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Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

at Kitty O'Sheas, 28 Courtenay Place, Wellington
From 6 May 2014 to 10 May 2014

Reviewed by Hannah Smith, 7 May 2014

It Was Supposed To Be a Joke purports to be an hour of self-help in which Sparrow tells us not to make the mistakes he himself has made. Why exactly we would want to take advice from a guy who has done the things Sparrow has done, and failed in the ways that Sparrow has failed? This is unclear. But Sparrow has an hour or thereabouts of cautionary tales and guidance to share with us, and share he does. 

The content is loose. There is some pseudo-risqué material (incest jokes, disability jokes) which is told with an only half-convincing tongue in cheek. An audience participation section outlives its welcome with insufficient payoff, and while Sparrow makes a joke of his coverage of conventions of stand-up – “Crowd-work = done” – it feels like he is ticking the boxes to generate content.

The show would benefit from a more coherent overarching theme to give it some shape, and lend the material a sense of purpose. An hour-long solo show is a big undertaking and, as a relative newcomer on the stand-up scene, it is impressive that he has pulled it together to make this happen, But there is a  sense that the material is being padded.

Sparrow has been a prolific performer between the Fringe and Comedy Festivals of the last year, and it may be that he hasn't had time to build and refine the content for this show.   

A grand finale of a comic dance sequence showcases his physical commitment, and gets the audience laughing, then a clip of him performing in an Australian Street Stars talent show is all kinds of awkward and strange and wonderful. This could have been married more tightly to the rest of the show and woven into the overall piece.

There is something really interesting about the tension between wanting to perform and be the centre of attention, and the vulnerability of failing – and there is room here to tackle that idea head on. 

It Was Supposed To Be A Joke needs further development before it will really sing, but Sparrow is clearly hungry for it, and so we must hope he will put in the work required to make this show fly.
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