Comedy Unplugged 2011
21/02/2011 - 28/02/2011
Comedy Unplugged delivers super-fresh material from some of our finest local comedians.
With the 2011 NZ International Comedy Festival on the boil, Comedy Unplugged offers comedians a chance to test out their show concept and perform new material to a live audience.
The feedback from audiences will determine what will feature in the show. Punters will get the rare opportunity to take a peek at their favourite comedians in full unedited glory, tracking what makes the cut in their NZ International Comedy Festival show in May 2011.
Get it fresh!
21 Feb 8:00pm (Mon)
28 Feb 8:00pm (Mon)
Fringe Addict Card Holder $10.00
The Fringe Bar
191 Cuba Street
2 hrs, 2 Mondays only
An entertaining wander into the pick’n’mix aisle
Review by Robbie Ellis 22nd Feb 2011
Monday is the established night for ‘raw’ comedy at the Fringe Bar. Outside of festival season, it’s common to see first-time and beginner comedians trying something new in front of an audience.
Tonight’s show was a step above that concept: seven comedians (including no fewer than three Billy T nominees, past and present) tested material for their upcoming New Zealand International Comedy Festival shows in April and May.
The MC for the evening was 2011 Billy T nominee Nick Rado. He did his best to keep the night rolling with a crowd somewhat slow to warm up. Rather promisingly, he started by making us move forward to occupy the empty seats at the front. Nick has recently returned to New Zealand from the UK: it was odd to hear him refer to the NZICF as the “Laugh Festival”, a name it left behind several years ago.
In the first half, the acts generally performed for ten minutes each. The first was Ants Heath, sporting a W-shaped combination of mutton-chop sideburns and moustache (no beard). Bookended by some brief unsatisfying smut, his set was essentially one great yarn from his teenage years, best summed up by a single verbatim quote: “Cops! Ambulances! Drugs! Explosives! Fuck!”
Following him was The Nat Pack: two comedians who will be presenting a show together at the Comedy Festival but performed separately tonight. Nathan Winter’s act is very heavy on disconnected one-liners – a difficult genre to pull off. While he did score a few laughs with some cleverly strung-together sequences, he never really managed to hold the crowd and towards the end lurched desperately into cheap gags based on sex and racial prejudice. I’ve seen more convincing performances from him in the past and I look forward to him establishing a more reliable flow to his set.
Nathan introduced his show partner Natalie Britten, who played an ukulele through a series of anecdotes of variable believability. (Disclaimer: Natalie was the producer for last week’s WITside Story, which I performed in.) The constant strumming was a great device to control pacing: it meant she could leave gaps between lines without the awkwardness of silence. Her disposition is generally sunny, but she subverted this on occasion with great timing. It was unfortunate to see her rely heavily on a printed script very prominently taped to a mic stand.
TJ McDonald finished the first half. Last week he performed as Father Timothy in Motivational Conversationalists, but tonight he presented a set as himself. Touching on topics from the usual (relationships) to the unusual (geopolitics of the Caucasus), he engaged with the crowd well and had a very good understanding of where “the line” lay, pushing boundaries without ever truly offending.
In the second half, we met Nick Gibb. This Palmerston North resident has quickly risen in the comedy scene as winner of the 2010 Wellington Raw Comedy competition and 2011 Billy T nominee. He combines slick vocal delivery with a common touch: he’s a very likeable raconteur. Fond of telling longer-form stories in a seemingly off-the-cuff manner, his humour is derived from the weirdness inherent in his utterly relatable stories, occasionally peppered with convincing movie impersonations (I noted Pulp Fiction, Gladiator and Jaws). I would encourage you to seek out his full-length solo show in the upcoming New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
To end the night, Derek Flores presented another from his stable of showbiz personalities, which includes the Mexican luchador ‘El Jaguar’. This latest character, ‘Shecky Gold’, is a variety show producer; a meek, visibly-perspiring self-effacing New York Jew barely eking out a living. He promises us a grand finale to the show: a famed burlesque act. I shan’t give away the full details here but I will say that it involves two audience volunteers, baby oil and a leaf-blower. I understand that the use of props didn’t go precisely to plan, but Derek is a masterful improviser and thrives on the unexpected. His rapport with the crowd was first-rate, keeping us uncomfortably on tenterhooks and making us love Shecky for the entire duration of his pathos-filled set. It will be interesting to see how this inherently awkward character will fit into an hour-long Comedy Festival show, but the results will no doubt be hilarious.
All in all, this wander into the pick’n’mix aisle was a mostly satisfying evening. Of considerable duration – at nearly two hours this is one of the longer events in the Fringe Festival – this first serving was paced well. While there was some of the usual pedestrian comedy cliché fare (sex, sexism, racism etc), there was also a good amount of new and interesting material. If you’re into a taster of different varieties of comedy, come and take note of whose set you’d like to see expanded to a full-length show.
Next week, Comedy Unplugged presents a different roster of performers: Sarah Harpur, Jeet Sheth, Gareth Bradley, Daniel Shenton, Fergus Aitken and Nick Rado will perform sets, with Derek Flores (or one of his alter-egos) as MC.
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