COMIC OR POET? Oliver Crafter, Joel Hansby & Michael Gray

BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

07/05/2015 - 09/05/2015

NZ International Comedy Festival 2015

Production Details

Ever wondered where the lines cross within stand-up and poetry? Some comedy could be considered disorganised poetry, while some poetry could be over thought one-liners.

Join a mixture of comics and poets as they try to tackle both arts. Featuring Oliver Crafter, Michael Gray (Winner, Nightline’s 2013 Limerick Death Match, 3rd in the 2013 NZ Poetry Slam final) and Joel Hansby (2013 Wellington Raw Comedy Finalist).

Comic or Poet? will see life experiences performed in both stand-up and poetry – will they crack you up or will you enjoy a night of poetic meaning?

Facebook:  /JoelHansby

Thu 7 – Sat 9 May, 8.30pm

The Studio at BATS Theatre, Wellington


Adults $16.00
Conc. $13.00
Groups 6+ $12.00* service fees may apply


04 802 4175

Stand-up comedy , Spoken word , Performance Poetry , Comedy ,

1 hour

Yet to fulfill the promise of the premise

Review by Shannon Friday 08th May 2015

There’s one big difference between theatre and stand-up that I can never really get over.  While theatre relies on the people onstage doing things with and/or to each other (and therefore, hopefully, the audience), stand-up shows can have multiple people in them who have nothing to do with each other, or who relate in only the most tangential ways. The trade-off is stand-up gets more direct address, and a stronger sense of the performer’s persona; something that feels more conversational. 

This can sometimes place stand-up in a somewhat narrow range, so I am really excited to check out Comic or Poet?. Perhaps this will be the show to change it.  I am picturing a raucous event in which the bastard children of Odgen Nash and Margaret Cho will take to the stage and duke it out for poetic and comedic supremacy. 

Instead ‘poetry’ is used as a somewhat loose theme linking three disparate presenters: Oliver Crafter, Michael Gray and Joel Hansby.  Aside from a very slick group intro and brief “Here’s the next guy” from one performer to the next, the three never really interact. Nor do Crafter or Hansby really tackle the formal challenge of mashing up poetry and standup, though, to be fair, each presents at least one poem in their time onstage. 

First up is Oliver Crafter.  He talks a lot about coming from Jersey, a tiny island in between England and France about “a third the size of Stewart Island with 100,000 people and just crammed with social issues.”  I’m looking forward to a lot of fish-out-of-water comedy about moving from one side of the world to another, but there’s something that feels a bit, well, nasty about Crafter’s comedy. 

While a few early jokes connect him to the struggles of growing up in a society ridden with massive and confronting economic inequality, mostly it feels very much like a whole bunch of relatively privileged people in New Zealand laughing at those gosh-darn poor people over there.   

The nastiness level increases when Jersey’s high level of sexual predation is brought up.  I mean, sex criminals aren’t real people, so there’s no need to worry about naming names or try to bring insight to the experience, right?  It’s all the more disquieting as Crafter has the most proficient delivery of the night, so he’s not without skill.  However, he’s also the most distant of the three performers, and I don’t get much sense of his personal stakes.  A little more vulnerability and time spent on the writing would go a long way. 

Michael Gray is most successful at the poetry/comedy mash-up.  He introduces himself as a poet, but his poems have a decided comedic bent, such as his Sasquatch reference and pun-laden self-introductory poem.  It’s intricate work, with a strong internal rhyme scheme and hurtling rhythm.  Think Dr Seuss, if Dr Seuss were a dick-obsessed flatter from Wellington. 

The wit and style of the poems aren’t totally served by Gray’s delivery.  While his super-speed allows us to marvel at the technical skill of memorisation, some of the nuance falls flat, and with it the opportunities to play up the contrasts and jokes inherent in the poems.  In addition, Grey has a breathy voice, which means both articulation and audibility require conscious effort, especially as there is a bit of an echo in Bats Studio.  I find myself struggling to hear and understand, and I’m only in the second row.

Joel Hansby is the final presenter and he is nervous.  Really nervous.  For a little while I’m convinced it’s his onstage persona – a sort of latter-day Emo Phillips with marginally better hair.  And who doesn’t like Emo Phillips?  (OK, lots of people, but they’re all wrong.)

Then there are some line fluffs.  And then some more, and some apologies to the audience.  Dude, if you didn’t draw attention to it, I probably would have spent the entire set thinking I was watching the first really distinct Wellington comedian I’ve seen in years. 

Even the joke structure feels like Phillips: a lot of one-liners and trips-down-garden-path sentences that emphasise Hansby’s low status.  I hope he’s backed into a new avenue to explore that could work for him.  With a lot more memorisation work and some more conscious choice put into physicality, there could be something here. 

So, the show to me isn’t what it promised and is instead a rather standard “three young comedians band together to have support while each builds to a full set.”  While I applaud this approach and the collaboration that inspires it, I’m still waiting for someone to fulfill the promise of the premise.


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