The Dark Room, Cnr Pitt and Church Street, Palmerston North

26/05/2017 - 27/05/2017

Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

07/03/2018 - 10/03/2018

BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

03/05/2017 - 06/04/2017

Fortune Theatre Studio, Dunedin

11/03/2018 - 13/03/2018

NZ Fringe Festival 2018 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Dunedin Fringe 2018

Production Details

Navigate the minefield of grief with award winning comedian and long-time Dead Dads Club member, Sarah Harpur.

“I find this humour warm, razor-sharp witty, and free from nasty… like a fresh lime juice margarita in a sea of flat beer, Harpur’s energy rises above the pack.” – Maryanne Cathro – Theatreview

Having a dead dad isn’t all bad, there are pros as well as cons…
CON: Dead dad 🙁
PRO: I don’t have to be quiet during the rugby 😀

Have you got a dead dad? Join the club! Or- is your dad immortal, but it’s awkward around those whose dads aren’t? Learn how to navigate the minefield grief with award-winning comedian and long-time Dead Dads Clubmember, Sarah Harpur.

There are plenty of reasons to be bummed out about having a dead dad. But for the duration of this show, we can make a conscious choice not to be.  Dead Dads Club is about finding the funny side of grief with a mixture of storytelling, music, sketch and stand-up. Non-members welcome.

Trigger Warning: May contain dead dads.

NZ Raw Comedy Quest Winner 2009
Best Newcomer – NZ Comedy Guild 2009
Best Comedy – Dunedin Fringe 2011
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series – LA Webfest 2011

Please note: Dead Dads Club is R13

BATS Theatre Propeller Stage
3 – 6 May

This show was awarded a Creative Comedy Project Grant from the NZ Comedy Trust

The Dark Room, Palmerston North
Friday 26 & Saturday 27 May 2017
Adult:  $12.00
Concession:  $8.00

NZ Fringe 2018

‘Harpur’s material is outstanding. It’s complex, funny, rich in great jokes but it also deepens deceptively. It’s the clarity that fools you, a bit like New Zealand rivers used to do. And it gets funnier as it gets deeper.’ – Michael Gilchrist, Theatreview

‘Heartfelt and upbeat, the Dead Dads Club is delightfully awkward, layered comedy. At about an hour’s length it will leave you aghast and understanding. You don’t need to be a member to enjoy this, so don’t miss out.’ – Adam Dodd, Theatreview

Fringe Bar
26-32 Allen Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Wednesday 7 – Saturday 10 March 2018
Concession/Student $10
Fringe Addict $10
Full $15
Group 6+ $10

Dunedin Fringe 2018

Fortune Theatre Studio
Sun 11 – Tues 13 March 2018
Ticket price range $10-$15
Booking details:

Theatre , Solo , Comedy ,

1 hr

Dances between objective honesty and pure love for her father’s conflicting sides

Review by Ina Kinski 12th Mar 2018

Sarah Harpur is one brave and funny lady. Lucky for the crowd at the Fortune Studio tonight, because we all get what we’v come for: an hour of honest laughs, knowing little cringes, and a story that is well worth listening to. 

The show is an initiation for new club members to the Dead Dads Club and as such, is terribly well organised by fifteen agenda items and guided by visuals in a slideshow. It has good rhythm, is easy to follow, and never gets dry: before you know it, you’re singing along to ways dads die, hearing the outrageously graphic description of Sarah’s parents inappropriate reunion at her fictitious wedding, or finding out why heaven actually is like hell. 

Harpur, Wellington-based and winner for Best Comedy at the Dunedin Fringe 2011, gives a grounded, real, warm and hearty performance. As a big fan of comedic storytelling, but not yet a member of the Dead Dads Club, I love how she tells the story of her (likely reasonably problematic) upbringing with such jest, able to get across the impact, and making light of it in a way that only comes with intelligent reflection. 

She elegantly dances between objective honesty and pure love for her father’s conflicting sides, with drink driving, gambling, borderline (but at the time apparently normal) neglect of her and her siblings, the repetitive and unfortunate naming of pets, serious accidents and ultimately suicide all getting a mention. 

It’s always good to be walking away from a show with the feeling that by bravely facing the more serious topics of life, we must be doing quite well at being adults. If you need a dose of that feeling, go see Dead Dads Club


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About as life affirming as you could imagine

Review by Maryanne Cathro 08th Mar 2018

It is a small but enthusiastic audience tonight: we laugh a lot and loudly. Because this show is hilarious. It is the signature blend of wild humour grounded in humanity and honesty that makes it so engaging and funny, while also taking us on an unexpected journey through the ridiculous and out the other side.

For me, who also has a Dead Dad, I find it surprisingly cathartic. Sarah’s Dad was pretty problematic as was mine, as Dads often are. Bad jokes, inconsistent temper management, seeing kids as useful resources for making cups of tea or painting window frames, they are different creatures to Mums in many ways.

As someone with a Dead Dad, you find yourself not sure whether to idealise their memory or honour their reality. Harpur is firmly in favour of honouring reality. Overall this seems the healthier choice, and after being taken through the Agenda Items of this meeting, one is left in no doubt at all.

Dead Dad’s Club is about as life affirming as you could imagine. In spite of the name. And because death is a part of life. And so is humour. And music.

I am already quoted in the publicity for this show, from a review I did of an earlier Harpur show, so I guess I’m also a card-carrying member of another club too – The Sarah Harpur Fan Club! 


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Delightfully awkward, layered, heartfelt and upbeat

Review by Adam Dodd 27th May 2017

Sarah Harpur admits she has been a little-bit obsessed with the subject of death since her father’s suicide – a fact that contributed to her feeling she had done the material to death and perhaps ought to retire it. Thankfully, receiving a Creative Comedy Project Grant to turn the Dead Dads Club into a full-length show thwarted such plans, at least for the moment. Thus it is I find myself attending my first regional meeting of the Dead Dads Club, hosted in Harpur’s hometown neighbour.

The meeting itself develops a well realised, at times outrageous, metaphorical conceit exploring the experience and culture of grief. Harpur does this with gravity, but without airs or grimness.

Conceptually the club is a support network for those people who find themselves facing life through the lens of being at least one-half orphaned. And like all good support networks, the DDC comes equipped with the best scientific insights and experience-based strategies for seeing us out the other side of grief. Central to this is an awareness of the emotional schism between those who have experienced loss and those who have no bloody idea.

It is a touchy subject, but we are fully warned and can decide individually if we are up to attending a show that is about grief. The show itself provides a multifaceted exploration of the themes – going so far as developing a mathematics of grief, an accountancy of sympathy, with theme songs!

With the support of the NZ Comedy Trust, Harpur has been able to work alongside Emma Kinane to refine and heighten the show. Pursuing the metaphor, DDC effectively and aptly utilises club meeting paraphernalia to organise and embellish Harpur’s material. Structurally and visually sumptuous, the result is exceptional.

It does suffer a slight surfeit of energy. The transition between agenda points can be abrupt – at times leaving you wanting for some expansion on the ideas covered; at others feeling over-telegraphed. There are also technical bumps in the road; no calamities but enough to demonstrate on Harpur’s part a confident intimacy with the material and an agile wit which allows for happy accidents. 

On wit, Harpur’s brand of humour is less urbane drollery and more adorable dork charging at full tilt. She has a fizzy, joyful presence that allows her to dance between the scandalous and the silly. While this is always done with sophistication, I feel the show may at times be too buoyant in its handling of the subject matter. That isn’t to say that it is without levels – Sarah clearly has a solemn respect for the experience of grieving, and centres her delivery appropriately at crucial moments.  

Heartfelt and upbeat, the Dead Dads Club is delightfully awkward, layered comedy. At about an hour’s length it will leave you aghast and understanding. You don’t need to be a member to enjoy this, so don’t miss out.


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Gets funnier as it gets deeper

Review by Michael Gilchrist 07th May 2017

[This review should have been posted on Thursday 4 May; the editorial error is regretted.]

There are a lot of reasons to join the Dead Dad’s Club. I know this because Sarah Harpur has taken me through them in a lovely sing-along we had with her last night: genocide, suicide, insecticide, infanticide – no, that last one is impossible. But you name it and the list goes on because, well, we are all going to be members sooner or later. Sarah joined the club earlier than most and twenty years later she makes an amazing guide in this journey around her father and the landscape of grief in suburban New Zealand.

My fellow Theatreview reviewer Maryanne Cathro is quoted in the publicity, saying that Sarah Harpur is like a “fresh lime juice margarita in a sea of flat beer.” I can’t think of a more apt description, except to add that this show is salty around the rim too: my favourite part.

Harpur’s material is outstanding. It’s complex, funny, rich in great jokes but it also deepens deceptively. It’s the clarity that fools you, a bit like New Zealand rivers used to do. And it gets funnier as it gets deeper. Her wedding fantasy, for example, has the kind of unforgettable, demented logic that only real honesty can bring. The material is also very well structured. The power-point plays in nicely and there is a deft variation in forms and angles. The comic songs – and Harpur does a mean comic song – also break things up perfectly.

Harpur is very modest about her singing and songwriting. Indeed there is a charmingly self-deprecating air about much of her performance. If I have any comment on her performing – which is energetic and at times wonderfully committed – it is that I think writing of this strength justifies a slightly more solid, self-confident, deadpan persona. Harpur has a beautiful smile and she uses it a lot in this show, acting the part of host and ensuring that the audience isn’t confused about tone. She may be right to be careful about this, given the potential darkness of some of the material. But I’d still like to see how a slightly more po-faced demeanour works for her, especially earlier on.

I note that this piece has been awarded a Creative Comedy Project Grant from the NZ Comedy Trust. I don’t know if that award helped with its development or its production but either way the Trust has got an incredible bang for its buck.

Directed by Emma Kinane, this is exceptional theatre, playing one-form off against a number of others, with a resonance that should not be underestimated. It’s about grieving and it’s about people, particularly a certain Dad – and it has a lot more to say about those things than may at first appear. 

Maybe it’s because I joined the Dead Dad’s Club only a couple of years after Sarah did that I love this show so much. But if others in the comedy festival can match this – well, you better not miss them either. 


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