Comedy Divas 2010

Paramount, Wellington

02/05/2010 - 02/05/2010

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

09/05/2010 - 09/05/2010

NZ International Comedy Festival 2010

Production Details

The term “Diva” gets tossed around like a bad word; Mariah Carey? Diva. Whitney Houston? Diva. Miley Cyrus? Time will tell on that one.
But Comedy Divas is a different story altogether; it’s not about the glamorous, lavish “girly girl”, fluffy and pink. It’s all about empowerment, strength and an all female cast that are every bit as funny as their male counterparts.
This year’s line up features some of the strongest talents both locally and internationally – hosted by critically acclaimed, multi-award winning and renowned NZ comedienne Justine Smith; as seen on TV3’s AotearoHA! Tiki Tour & Dai’s Xmas Special, she has continually been a mainstay of the NZ International Comedy Festival. Her gritty stand up has been praised both here and across the ditch.
Zoe Lyons (UK) won over a number of fans with her appearance on TV at last years The Great Kiwi Christmas Gala, showing Kiwi audiences her confident, razor sharp wit which has created a huge buzz on the comedy circuit since 2004. Not only has she won the ‘Funny Women Award’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but also demonstrated her ability to laugh in the face of adversity; as a contestant on the UK first series of Survivor!, she lasted 34 days on the Malaysian Island of Pulau Tiga, was bitten by what they thought was a sea snake and lived to tell the tale.
Maeve Higgins’ (IRE) first trip to Aotearoa last year showed audiences her low key, yet iconoclastic charm. She has a knack for talking about a vast range of hilariously random subjects including the sound of forced rhubarb and taxidermy in Victorian times.
Although pegged as the “Polynesian Princess”, she’s anything but tiaras and cups of tea. Irene Pink (NZ) has never been one to shy away from a controversial subject; having managed to upset everyone from Australasian Piano Tuners to Auckland Kindergarten Teachers, all with a resolute smile on her face.

The new additions to this fantastic night out include award-winning Australian comedian Felicity Ward as seen on TV3’s Cadbury® Crunchie® Comedy Gala, up and coming starlet Rose Matafeo straight from her successful solo show  ‘Life Lessons I’ve Learnt From the 60s Based On Things I’ve Seen On The Television’ and our favourite hot-pink poet Penny Ashton!

2009 sold out so rush in or miss out!
Comedy Divas plays:
PARAMOUNT Theatre, 25 Courtney Place
Sunday 2 May at 7.30pm
SKYCITY Theatre, Cnr Wellesley and Hobson St, Auckland CBD
MOTHERS’S DAY SHOW: Sunday 9 May at 7:30pm

Tickets:  Adults $45, Concessions and Groups of 10+ $39.50 (service fees will apply)
Book now:  0800 TICKETEK (842 5385) or

Show Duration:  2 hours.

Smut-gags get the biggest laughs

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 10th May 2010

This year’s Comedy Divas is a mixed bag, with undeniable highs and lows, but throughout the journey host Justine Smith is the perfect glue. At times her larger than life personality and witty interludes between acts saves the event’s well established reputation from taking a hit.

From the start Justine doesn’t miss a beat. She relishes every second on mic, unleashing her trade mark asides, manic eyes and plethora of laugh out load material on an audience eager to hear more. Not one to shy away from controversial topics, all aspect of the seedy underbelly in her hometown of Christchurch are explored. Adelaide, the aging process, her lust for Willie Apiata, being single and one night stands are also a few of her favourite things to talk about.

However, the best is saved till last, as seasoned professional Zoe Lyons’ razor sharp wit, confident pacey delivery and astute material set her head and shoulders above the rest. This Brit reigns the undisputed Queen of the night. Her digs at Wellington’s weather, our kiwi emblem, flying, superstitions and phobias are refreshing smart and hugely entertaining. Even though I’ve seen her spider, vegan and Nigella Lawson routines before, they are still just as hilarious the second time round, which is a further mark of her genius. 

Material-wise, the New Zealand women still rely on rude, overtly sexual routines and punch lines for their biggest laughs. On the one hand, when there is such a heavy concentration of explicit material in one night, the net effect can be desensitisation. On the other hand, these women of comedy know this audience well, as almost without exception, it is the smut-gags by all the comediennes, that get the biggest laughs – men, women, old and young alike.

Perhaps scary women with a no-holds-barred approach to crass comedy are what they want. The exception is Lyons: Personally, it is a relief to hear something different and to observe her broader and observational material uniformly win loud applause, laughter and respect.

While still finding her most effective overall performance pace, RoseMatafeo – like Lyons – takes the risk on a wider perspective. She’s very appealing to her younger age group, throwing in good material about Facebook and technology, with a nice smattering of irony. While I find the star sign section a tad lame, and male/female impersonations a bit pedestrian, she is absolutely full of potential. Her stalker song – the second stalker song I’ve heard this festival – shows her prowess on the mandolin and is an excellent sign off. As she tightens up her material and performance, she’ll be one to watch in the future.

Understated low-key Irish comedienne Maeve Higgins is usually funny. Regrettably, she did not fire on this occasion. Perhaps the gear change (material and energy wise) between Maeve and the rest of the women on the billing was just too much for this crowd? Certainly we grew quiet, and that seem to throw her. Unfortunately, even though her stories about her cat and her mother are quirky, she fails to take the audience on her journey. One practical issue: Skycity is a big venue, so due to bad mic technique (straying off mic), lack of projection and diction, sometimes we just couldn’t hear.

Irene Pink is completely at ease and comfortable in the limelight as she delivers a well-rounded routine about date-nights, sexual fantasies, men in uniform, homeless people and losing 30kg. The routine is dotted with great gags, my favourite being at the expense of weather girls.

Australia’s Felicity Ward is like an energizer bunny, using her elastic physicality to full comic advantage with her impressions of a kid and a cat. Her routine is polished; she’s done her homework and serves up a fantastic gag at the expense of Hamilton. I’m not sure what the chili-chart to measure the effectiveness of her routine adds in terms of comedy, but the audience seem to enjoy the interaction. Ward is very enjoyable to watch and ends on a great song called ‘How To be A Modern Moron’, which unfortunately lets itself down with a weak repetitive end.

Penny Ashton, New Zealand comedy’s hot pink poet, is out to shock and generously endows herself as being an aspiring burlesque dancer. Two men in the front row, Ben and Roy – who, thanks to Irene and Justine’s earlier interactions, are now well known to us – end up on stage ripping Ashton’s coat off at her command, to reveal… a lot. It’s titillating and in your face.

There’s an element of ‘all undressed and nowhere to go’ at this point, as Ashton chooses not to put a comedy spin on a burlesque routine. Instead, we head into a clever poem about sex, being horny and finding the man of her dreams. She inserts New Zealand places names here and there for comic effect, and at one point simulates Rodney Hide having sex. Scary.

Coupled with her earlier short statement about Michael Laws, which she bravely tags with “sometimes it’s just truth, not comedy,” I’m left thinking there is nothing she won’t say or do, using shock tactics for reaction. She tops the poem with her hot pink booty rap, which is undeniably excellent and impressive in lyric, style, satire and execution.
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A taste of things to come

Review by Maryanne Cathro 03rd May 2010

The Paramount’s main theatre is a very comfortable place to view comedy. It gives an impression of a cosy night out with the girls, and women definitely comprise most of the audience for Comedy Divas. The humour on offer however is not always cosy and has plenty of pointy bits to amuse.

The line up of talent is Justine Smith (MC), Maeve Higgins, Jim Stanton, Irene Pink, Jan Maree, Sarah Harpur and Zoe Lyons. Most of these gals have shows opening this week, so it really is a taste of things to come (a line which would trigger a hilariously lewd response from at least three of these Divas!)

Stories of getting lost in Wellington, the sacred bond between a woman and her cat, motels in Perth, having a young and buff trainer, the perils of working in hospo, men, vegans and mothers all featured. And sex of course in its many forms – casual, married, solo, fantasy – (FYI: that’s where the trainer comes into it, so to speak).

An entertaining night out that bodes well for all these artists’ solo shows over the next two weeks.


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