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Print Version
NZ International Comedy Festival 2014
Presented by New Zealand Comedy Trust

at Hannah Playhouse, Wellington
17 May 2014

Reviewed by Charlotte Simmonds, 20 May 2014

[Note: This review was held back pending clarification and verification of the participants' names. It took a while … - ED]

I can understand that you might not go to see secondary school students trying their hand at stand-up comedy unless you're a supportive friend or family member, but as a non-interested party, I find this at least as entertaining as watching ‘adult' comedians, if not more so. 

Without any pressure to think that the performers are brilliant stars whom I should definitely laugh at because they are famous, international celebrities and because an Edinburgh reviewer told me I should, I come to the conclusion that these performers are brilliant stars of my own accord and laugh accordingly.

MC Jamie Bowen helps to alleviate performers' nerves and encourages the audience into being slightly more responsive than New Zealand audiences might otherwise be. He also informs us throughout the afternoon of how threatened he feels by these fantastic young comedians and lets us know he is contracted to be desperate for attention. 

First up is Tom Basire* who has everyone laughing as soon as he mentions his dead wife. I'm not sure if his jokes are funny in themselves or whether the humour comes from the absurdity of a 16- or 17-year-old talking about having to send his three kids to an orphanage. Whatever it is, it works.

Paeaka Reid from Paraparaumu is certainly the best dressed performer in a tailcoat, bowtie and elegant yellow scarf, and – with impressive height – looks much older than he is (nearly 18). He has the stage confidence of a very seasoned artist and is also a very good writer. I can well imagine him writing for the page in future as well as continuing on the stage. 

Michael Nobbs reminds me a little of Emo Philips, and maybe that's a comedian he should check out if he's not familiar with him already. He starts with a joke that requires an audience member to stand up and I feel pretty annoyed with the two audience members who refuse to stand up so he can finish making his joke about stand-up being something anyone can do (if you're coming to watch secondary school students doing stand-up you are probably a friend or family member and the least you can do is participate in the most minimal amount of audience participation imaginable). He tells a story about swallowing a mysterious pill, ending in, “you will grow a vagina.”

Nikki Taite* is nearly 17 and I really hope this performer goes on to have a big career because I think what she has to say is important. She is from Upper Hutt and her stories are all about things like ethnicity, white versus non-white, the ethnic police, the parts of town where one brown family lives, Hone who has seen the light and is now John. While her stories are presented as “this is funny, you should laugh at it,” at the same time they are true, real and extremely uncomfortable. She talks about racism that is invisible to me. I am white and these kinds of experiences are not something I ever face. And it's all just up the road from me, not in a gangster neighbourhood in the US. And it is a 17-year-old girl who is telling me these things and breaking my heart. It is important that there is room in New Zealand for this kind of comedy.

Scott Brieseman likes trains a lot and his set mostly consists of puns. I love puns and I hope he is able to refine his more and keep developing them. He also takes the Roger/Oveur/tower sequence from Airplane! and makes it longer and far more ridiculous, turning into much more of a “Who's On First?” than the scene originally was. This is also good and I hope he can work on this kind of story-telling more as well.

Ben Miller manages to do something very few of the comedians pull off: call-backs to earlier jokes he's made. That's pretty hard to do in ten minutes. I love his meerkats – Gerald and what sounded like Gerald's wife – and would like to see a full show of talking zoo animals. He's latched onto a pretty limitless source of material there.

After the break, Te Atawhai Maginess asks her dad, on being asked to tidy her bedroom, if the guests are planning to eat dinner in it. She is my 13-year-old date's favourite comedian but I wonder if that's because he thinks she's pretty. He tells me the ‘tidy your room/dinner in bedroom' joke comes from a Facebook meme, which I think is a valid source, particularly as she manages to create so much more out of it than a meme could ever have offered, covering her ‘walk-on wardrobe' and culminating in a very interesting observation about what's lost when a room is tidy. 

Jeremy Brow seems to be some sort of sinister Dr. Strangelove-cum-Kim Dotcom type character who keeps talking about his very expensive car, stereo system and dolphin tank and ends in telling us he's not sure what we're all doing here either.

Part-Mexican, part-American and part-Kiwi Samuel Porta has a strong concept in comparing and doing impressions of TV ads in the US, New Zealand and Mexico. He also really makes me want to go to Mexico.

Bianca Villarante from the Philippines is 17 years old but has the sweet, innocent, endearing face of a six-year-old, which I think is how she manages to pull off a very detailed story about doing a poo or “busting a grumpy” as she calls it. This flips my mind a little bit – an extremely petite and cute, broadly grinning secondary school girl is telling me an elaborate poo story – but I'm letting her, because it doesn't feel much different to the sorts of stories told by much younger children. If she can keep that trait going for another fifteen years, she'll be able to get away with the most ridiculous and, in any other circumstance, appalling, anecdotes and no one will feel offended.

Although I love them all, the final comedian is my favourite. Liam Whitney* enters dressed in a brown onesie and starts talking in a depressed monotone. He hates cicadas and has extremely beautiful terms to describe how irritating they are. He also hates crickets and watching crickets but what he hates most of all is when a cricket sits next to you at the cricket. This was a very well put together piece performed by a very well-crafted stage persona.

As Jamie Bowen reiterates throughout the show, if this is the future of New Zealand comedy, it's really looking good.  
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*Tom Basire (winner of Highly Commended); Nikki Taite (winner of Nailed it on the Night); Liam Whitney (winner of Comedians Choice)
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 Regan Crummer