GUY MONTGOMERY I was part of the problem before we were talking about it (NZ)

Christchurch Arts Centre - The Backstage Social Club, Christchurch

11/01/2019 - 15/01/2019

World Buskers Festival 2019 | BREAD & CIRCUS

Production Details

It’s hard to believe but Guy Montgomery hasn’t always been perfect. While most people are gracious and empathetic from birth, this has not been Guy’s path.

White, straight, and from Christchurch, New Zealand; it’s been an existence lived in the fog of privilege. And in spite of frantically trying to outgrow his ignorance, there aren’t many minorities Guy hasn’t denigrated on the road to basic human decency. 

Embrace this rare opportunity to hear from someone unlearning the various blind spots that made him part of the problem before we were talking about it.

Presented in association with The Junkyard.

The Backstage Social Club – The Arts Centre
11 – 15 Jan 2019
Coarse language, Adult themes

Theatre , Stand-up comedy , Solo ,

55 mins

A great conversationalist

Review by Tony Ryan 15th Jan 2019

Stand-up comics are thin on the ground at this year’s World Buskers Festival.  Last year I caught six of the ten-or-so on offer from various parts of the world, but in 2019 we have just two – both Kiwis. I’m a great fan of stand-up comedy and would have liked more but it’s good, at least, that Bread and Circus is promoting our home-grown talent. 

Although I enjoy this relatively low-key hour with Guy Montgomery, the competition is stiff, with many touring comics passing through Christchurch during the year and many more on offer in previous Buskers Festivals. Netflix and Live at the Apollo also provide numerous opportunities to sample the best in the world, all of which I take full advantage of, not to mention some great (and not so great) acts that I’ve seen at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

But, different people have different tastes and there are a few examples, e.g. on Netflix, that don’t hit the mark with me, despite the wildly enthusiastic responses of their audiences. Tonight’s audience, like me, enjoys the show, but both the presentation and the audience reaction are relatively restrained.

For me the best comics have five attributes:

  1. The material and delivery are original and genuinely funny
  2. A social/political message is good, but the comedy has to remain to the fore (comedians who lose sight of the reason we have come to see them, and then proceed to lecture us, are a turn-off, however much we agree with them – and they’re usually preaching to the converted anyway)
  3. Choice of language (vocabulary) or references to sex and sexuality are never a problem provided they contribute to the humour (as they mostly do) but ‘comedians’ who use such content merely to shock are just a bore.

Guy Montgomery fulfils all these first three and, although he occasionally lets his ‘message’ overtake his comedy, he remains engaging throughout the show. The venue is quite an intimate setting and he continually interacts with us, so we’re all supportive and ‘on his side’.  

The other two of my five attributes are: 4. Balance, and 5. Structure. For me, Montgomery is less successful at balancing the inherent humour of his content with the topic, or message, that he has chosen as his theme. And the funniest ‘jokes’ are not always related to that theme.

He does attempt to structure his act around brief, anonymous anecdotes related to his topic, which have been contributed in writing by members of the audience, and although this works to an extent, he is reliant on the potential of those notes, as well as on his own ability to respond spontaneously and comically to what’s been written, and tonight that’s not always as successful as we and he hope.

His theme is basically the ‘problem’ of privilege. Like most stand-up comedians, Guy Montgomery’s show is centred on himself and his own experiences. His story tonight is about his privileged upbringing, the single-sex private schools he attended and the consequent perspective from which he and those with a similar background see the world. That idea seems to me to have considerable potential for comedy, but Montgomery’s angle comes across more as one of regret than of highlighting the absurdities and contrasts of perspective vs. reality. 

He tells us stories against himself that don’t always sound as though he is fully repentant of his actions, so that there is almost a sense that his contribution to the ‘problem that he was part of’ has not yet been completely overcome. Somehow, he still sees the humour in situations more than the hurt. It’s a tricky subject on which to build a comedy show. 

In my experience, many New Zealand comedians are at their considerable hilarious best when sharing the stage with others in, for example, such contexts as TV’s Seven Days. The same people alone on stage in a spotlight with a microphone sometimes struggle with their ability to project fluid comedy. As Guy Montgomery says himself, “I’m a great conversationalist; that’s where I’m a killer.”


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