Q Theatre, The Vault, Auckland

27/04/2013 - 04/05/2013

Fringe Bar, Cnr Cuba & Vivian, Wellington

07/05/2013 - 11/05/2013

Ombrellos, 10 Clarendon Street, Dunedin North

23/10/2013 - 25/10/2013

The Manchester Ranch, 356 Manchester St, Christchurch

16/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

La Mama First Floor Theatre, 74a E. 4th St, NYC, USA

19/03/2015 - 22/03/2015

The Stand Comedy Club 2 (Venue 5), Edinburgh, Scotland

05/08/2016 - 28/08/2016

Christchurch Fringe 2014

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

New Zealand Performance Festival New York

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Production Details


Coming straight out of Newtown, via the Hutt… and Whitby – James Nokise presents his own unique take on New Zealand Gangs, So-so Gangsta.

He’s not from the School of Hard Knocks and he never attended the Ghetto University (although he did Theatre and Film at Vic), but somehow James Nokise always believed his destiny was to be New Zealand’s Next Top Gangsta.

Blending a mix of personal stories, research, and current affairs, So-so Gangsta is an oddly in-depth and comedic look at both Gangs and the perception of Gangs in the relatively un-gangsta New Zealand. When the most publicised gang of the past decade was a bunch of teenagers in yellow t-shirts, and the most notorious have their strongholds in Whanganui and Wairoa… things might not be as a bad as they seem.

But is that because our Gangsters are crap, or because so many are in prison now? And what exactly qualifies as a Gang these days anyway?

New Zealand’s favourite (and only) Samoan/Welsh stand-up comic, James Nokise is the first Pacific Islander to work fulltime on the United Kingdom stand-up comedy circuit. 

With over four years on the UK pro circuit under his belt, and twice nominated for New Zealand’s top comedy award, Nokise is also a veteran of five Edinburgh Fringe festivals including hosting and headlining duties during the inaugural “Best of Kiwi Showcase” in 2004. Since then he has risen to be one of the top young comedians in New Zealand, performing hugely successful one hour solo shows in six NZ International Comedy Festivals. As a playwright, James’ first play, The Minister’s Son, was nominated for a Chapman Tripp; his second, Public Service Announcements was nominated for a NZ International Comedy Festival award.

As part of the 2013 NZ International Comedy Festival


Date: Sat 27, Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May, 7.15 pm
Venue: Vault at Q, 305 Queen St
Bookings: 09 309 9771 www.qtheatre.co.nz  

Date: Tue 7 – Sat 11 May, 8.30 pm
Venue: The Fringe Bar, Cnr Cuba & Vivian Sts
Bookings: 04 801 6946 www.downstage.co.nz  

Tickets: $15 – $20 (booking fees may apply) 

For the sweetest deals and hottest comedy news throughout the Festival head to

23rd, 24th and 25th of October 2013
Ombrellos, 10 Clarendon Street, North Dunedin
Adults $12, Conc. $10

Christchurch Fringe Festival 2014  
The Manchester Ranch, 356 Manchester St.
October 16-18
tickets $15/$12
available at the door
or email: meegwai@gmail.com 

New Zealand Performance Festival New York 2015

Samoan comedian James Nokise brings hip-hop culture back to the USA via the Pacific and Aotearoa, New Zealand.

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club
First Floor Theatre
March 19, 20, 21 at 7:30pm & 22 at 2pm  

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016
The Stand Comedy Club 2(Venue 5)
Aug 5-14, 16-28
Book here

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr

Unexpected profundity arises from the laughter

Review by Acushla-Tara Kupe 11th Aug 2016

James Nokise: So So Gangster is as much of a theatrical educational piece as it is a stand-up comedy show. Nokise arrives on stage in a tailored suit complete with scarf and pocket square and starts the hour with the enjoyable kind of audience banter that has become somewhat expected of today’s stand-up comedians. Within seconds Nokise has the audience on side and after warming everyone up he segues into introducing himself, where he’s from and finally gets to the crux of the evening: gangs. 

Sharing his own experience of being in a gang at an early age, Nokise has the audience chuckling along with a subject that is usually either off limits or too scandalous to discuss. The gang culture in New Zealand is adequately satirised and it feels like the barriers surrounding this discussion topic are broken down, for the hour at least.

Having grown up in a gang-occupied region of New Zealand myself, it feels odd to be laughing at this taboo subject matter but in no time Nokise has successfully turned the intimidating into the ridiculous. His unique perspective and comedic ingenuity has us laughing, sympathising, and questioning gang culture in all of its forms.

Nokise works hard to make this New Zealand-centric show relevant for the international audience and if their ongoing laughter is anything to go by he does this very well. His inclusion of local politics is also a massive hit and is integrated well into the existing material. 

Nokise delivers with the confidence and charisma that can only come from years of experience. His improvised lines are on point and as an audience we feel comfortable in the hands of someone who clearly knows what they are doing. At times the rate at which Nokise delivers his material means we miss the odd phrase here and there which is a shame as some potentially great moments seem to miss their mark this way.

The show is also supported by the use of a simple slideshow and at times I wonder if this is necessary as most things on screen are described in great detail and for the most part it seems to be more of a hindrance than source of support.

Overall it is the kind of comedy show in which you spend the whole time laughing but are then unexpectedly you’re left on a really profound note, in the best way; the kind of show that keeps you thinking long after you’ve left.

James Nokise: So So Gangster is a very entertaining show that I believe can only get stronger with continued performance and refinement of the existing material. If you’re up for a good night, head along to The Stand at 10.40pm almost every night through August.


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Profoundly satirises fear-based power

Review by Alison Walls 22nd Mar 2015

A fairly even mix of Americans and New Zealanders have braved the snow, slush, and wind to hear James Nokise expound in La MaMa’s small black box theatre on just what it is to be So So Gangsta. With such an audience, culture is inevitably going to offer both a point of interest and a challenge.

Nokise introduces his set by pointing out that it is International Race Relations Day in New Zealand, segueing into a condensed history of race relations in New Zealand, leading into an overview of New Zealand gangs, before ending with an at-times rather touching account of his personal relationship to being “gangsta” (all accompanied by illustrative slides). 

Part of Nokise’s charm is that he retains his natural warmth, the sort of elastically easy, yet simultaneously self-deprecating manner familiar to all New Zealanders, and the unique yet not exclusionary perspective that comes from being an artistic, educated, one-time wannabe gangsta, with a Welsh mother and Samoan father, living in Wellington.

Unfortunately, however, I suspect much of this may be lost on the US contingent in the audience. Nokise talks a mile-a-minute and even though he accurately explains for the Americans that this is a New Zealand trait, other cultural idioms make little allowance for the New York audience. Some references are provided a US translation, such as cricket (“baseball slowly destroyed over five days”) and rugby (“imagine American football, but played by men who are tough”), but Nokise seems unaware of the less-obvious details that may confuse an American audience.

As minor as it may appear, “bin” instead of “trash-can” means that Nokise’s otherwise excellent bit on the difference between US and New Zealand customs’ (guns and terrorists versus bananas and oranges) falls flat for Americans. Similarly, I want to urge Nokise towards greater specificity when he does give the US context (if you mention “Fergusson and everything”, why not mention Eric Garner — a case closer to home for New Yorkers — and what are the exact statistics for imprisoned Blacks in the US)?

Notable exceptions to this are his anecdotes related to passing through LAX customs, and being stopped by NY police while frantically running down Wall St, toting Gingernuts and Pineapple Lumps for the festival’s opening party (the particular irony of being stopped with bags of sweet nostalgia has a particular deliciousness for New Zealanders, but the fear engendered by the NYPD doubtless has extra piquancy for the New Yorkers).

Nokise is genuinely funny and I have many good laughs, although generally there is a slight lack of polish and editing here — the show runs over by a good 25 minutes and there are a few muffed lines (admittedly, Nokise is on a whirlwind tour and after 33 hours of planes and airports, most of us would stumble over more than the odd word), which means that certain jokes just don’t land as they should.

And this is such a pity because at its heart So So Gangsta has the essentials of really great comedy. Nokise understands the vital importance of his role as a comedian — of the role of all comedians. He rightly applauds the American comedians who offer brilliant social critique and laments Australia’s comparative timidity in facing up to such icky concerns as racial injustice.

Thankfully for us, Nokise is driven to take on New Zealand’s social ills in his comedy. His particular mission is to laugh at the gangstas of the world — and he extends this definition from the Killer Beas to any group whose power resides in generating fear. The profundity underlying Nokise’s humour makes it funnier (contemplate for a moment just why “homo beats gangsta”) and gives it that essential bite. 


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You come away smarter and a little wiser

Review by Patrick Davies 26th Oct 2013

Nokise’s So So Gangsta makes it to Dunedin after tearing up the turf around New Zealand. Ombrello’s is a restaurant café and not the expected place for stand-up. A smallish room with wooden floors, fine wine and dining and some great comedy.

Assisted by Anya Tate-Manning on PowerPoint and minimal lighting, Nokise takes us on a journey of gangs in New Zealand. He’s such a well spoken young man with an erudite vocabulary, so it’s quite surprising to find out his own gang heritage. One look at the poster and you see the Americanisation [~zation?] of our youth, while at the start of the show his urbanity unfolds in an American tux suit. And this is the theme that unfolds through his show: what lies beneath. 

Nokise’s work has always had a political and intellectual slant, cut by his sly method of making you laugh while understanding his argument towards his point. Jeremy Elwood’s political humour is more cynical, Seven Days more contemptuous of politics, but Nokise’s brand is a conversation that urges you strongly towards a point.

Starting with colonisation by not just one sort of peoples, he moves us through to expand the idea of gangs from countries to ideas to sports and the results of those for our small nation. His narrative gently (and not so gently) opens our eyes to the widening of that definition of gang to our reigning sports gangs – like muesli that tastes great, you are getting an education while enjoying it.

But he doesn’t stop there In amongst diversions from his own past and how his education, both social and schooled, was influenced by various gangs, proscribed by either the government or those around him, he expands his thesis and we follow willingly. He is the most delightful gangsta, the crowd clearly loving and listening to him.

I am interested to see how a white settlement like Dunedin responds. Certainly there are moments that would have landed differently ‘Up North’, and that is why it’s important to see this kind of show – and a real risk to have it outside of the usual supports (such as a Fringe venue). It makes me think more about what I see – not just the Crips and the Bloods but the gangs up in Wellington and what gangs they stand for.

A great night out – you come away smarter and a little wiser about the world about you while having had a good laugh. The best kind of show there is.


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Smart, from the heart, with political bite

Review by Hannah Smith 08th May 2013

James Nokise does not immediately appear like a gangsta: he is a little over dressed for the Fringe Bar actually, in a tux and tie.  However, this show is all about defying and transforming perceptions, and so the fancy get up is apt.  

We begin with a brief and informative slideshow that runs through a history of race relations in NZ, and the impact of sport – the All Blacks in particular – on transforming society and politics, and from there we move on to New Zealand’s gang culture, with some tales from the mean streets of the Hutt Valley. 

Nokise is an accomplished comic, quick-witted, charming and in command of the stage.  He has a deft hand; jokes that would be bad taste on the part of a less savvy performer are nicely judged, and his ‘Maori voice’ and Polynesian/KFC material is used to interrogate racial stereotyping in comedy – as well as to make everyone laugh. 

He has silly walks, and a slow striptease and enough physical comedy to keep the stage alive, but there is a political message at the centre of the show that makes it more than just gags. What we see is only part of what we get. Kids in gangs are really just kids in T-shirts, and they are way less scary, and have a lot less power over you, than political parties, who are also colour coded. 

Nokise’s comedy is smart and from the heart, and opening night in Wellington play to a full house who lap it up.  Book fast for this one, because it is going to sell out.


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