A Brief History of Everything in the Sky

Carter Observatory, 40 Salamanca Rd (or near top of Cable Car), Kelburn, Wellington

14/02/2007 - 17/02/2007

NZ Fringe Festival 2007

Production Details

Created and performed by Mike Bodnar and Matt Elliott


Observational comedy takes on a new meaning in the 2007 Wellington Fringe Festival when popular local comedians Matt Elliott and Mike Bodnar look to the heavens for comedy inspiration. In what may well be a world comedy first, the duo – who had a sell-out show at last year’s festival (This Time Next Year) – perform stand-up comedy in a planetarium.

Their show, A Brief History of Everything in the Sky, plays at Carter Observatory, from February 14 -17, an ideal venue for observational comedy.

“Unusual venues are nothing new for us,” said Matt Elliott. “We performed on the frigate F69 shortly before it was sunk off the south Wellington coast.”

Mike Bodnar added, “Contrary to popular opinion, there was absolutely no connection between the two events, though some of my humour took a while to sink in”.

Carter Observatory, in Wellington’s Botanic Gardens, has something else to laugh about having recently secured funding for the next decade from the government and Wellington City Council; this will support an upgrade of the historic facility. Science Minister Steve Maharey described the observatory as “an important cultural and scientific asset for Wellington”. He was unavailable for comment on Elliott and Bodnar (who see it as more of a hysteric building).

Elliott has performed nationally and internationally for 18 years, and wrote the only history of New Zealand comedy (Kiwi Jokers). He produces and presents a weekly radio show dedicated to comedy on Wellington Access Radio, 783AM.

Bodnar, familiar to many from his years in radio and television, debuted in stand-up comedy in 2005 and had his first solo show at last year’s Dunedin Fringe Festival.

This year’s Fringe show should not be missed as Elliott and Bodnar take comedy light-hearted years into the future. The humour will be out of this world. Ticket prices are not astronomical.

Theatre , Comedy ,

1 hr 10 mins, no interval

Squandered opportunity

Review by Lynn Freeman 22nd Feb 2007

A Brief History of Everything in the Sky has a seriously cool venue, the Carter Observatory.  Matt Elliot and Mike Bodnar present, together then separately then together again, musings on the night sky.

They meander through the grey area between science fiction and scientific fact.  It’s all very laid back, some great lines, some terrible puns.  Overall, a squandered opportunity to create something magical.

Elliott presents a brief history lesson on pivotal moments and characters in the history of astronomy. Bodnar is more tangential, wondering what would happen if invading aliens abducted a dog or Sam Hunt and based their big invasion speech on them.


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Those skys ...

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 16th Feb 2007

While not the first time the Carter Observatory has been used for a Fringe Festival production it’s probably the fist time its been used as a venue for stand up comedy, which ostensibly is what A Brief History of Everything in the Sky is. 

The two supposed comedians, Matt Elliott and Mike Bodnar have each woven a series comedy sketches around literally everything in the sky, from the stars and the planets to sputniks, space ships and aliens.  Although relatively laid back they start off well, like a pair of modern day Fred Daggs, interacting about the stars and planets that have been glowing in the dome of the planetarium. 

Then they each do their individual turns. Elliot’s Astronomy 101 – From the Dawn of Man to Now – raises some laughs, his manner engaging if not overly inspiring. Mike Bodnar then follows with a witty and surprisingly informative routine about the facts of space, his impersonations of Sam Hunt and Billy Connelly are very funny and his put down of weather forecasters is very clever and humorous. 

This show however could have been so much more entertaining if the two had combined their talents and interacted more as they did in the opening sequence.  


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Bright spots but needs work

Review by John Smythe 15th Feb 2007

Some twinkling humour and the odd shooting star feature in A Brief History of Everything in the Sky but a fair bit of it needs work.

The Prof. Stephen Hawking introduction and opening sketch, of two shepherds eschewing their bleating flocks for a constellational gaze, bode well for a bright night.

Matt Elliott’s stand-up spot, however, is under-rehearsed – or was on opening night. Referring to notes and giggling at himself do little to engage us. A would-be star shooting himself? His whimsical musings on key people in astronomical science since the beginning of time are fair enough but too often dodgy science subverts the value of his shtick.

A microscope, for example, is not the opposite of a telescope. They both magnify, it’s just that they point in different directions. And a wee story about why Neil Armstrong was moving that way on the moon takes a giant leap backwards because minimal gravity is not taken into account.

Mike Bodnar’s solo spot is infinitely better both in material and delivery. Good observational humour rooted in truth and topicality blends well with sci-fi scenarios. As a bonus, he ingeniously integrates excellent impersonations which rather eclipse Elliott’s good but relatively contrived Cockney Pom accents and personae.

The final Star Wars-style laser-sword battle should bring the night to a sparkling climax but it too needs work to achieve even a glow.


Jerome Chandrahasen February 18th, 2007

I viewed Matt and Mike's show on February 16th and throughly enjoyed it, so am very disappointed to learn that some of Matt Elliott's statements were scientifically inaccurate. I feel to deliberately misinform your audience in matters of science during a stand up comedy performance is unforgivable. I will be avoiding his shows in the future.

Jodie Neilson February 16th, 2007

Your 'A Brief History' review disasppointingly seems to be a personal attack on Matt Elliott rather than a review of the show. I was a paying member of the audience the same night and laughed right through his performance which was quite different content-wise from most other stand-up on offer around Wellington. And as for your hang up about exact facts, wouldn't you have been better using your review space to mention things like, oh, I don't know, that the audience was laughing. This was two Kiwi guys taking on the spirit of the Fringe and trying and succeeding with something out of the ordinary in a challenging space. I was happy with Elliott holding a piece of paper because he was delivering a mock-lecture which was factual and funny and I, and friends of mine, are still discussing some of the material he mentioned unlike other shows where the content is forgotten by the time we get back to the car.

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