Jeremy Elwood - Passport Control
14/05/2007 - 19/05/2007
09/05/2007 - 12/05/2007
“… New Zealand‘s best and brightest. Better than a lot of the big names in town… Elwood is brilliant.” – Adelaide Advertiser 2006
Multiple award winning comedian and multiple passport holder Jeremy Elwood presents a brand new solo show. All about himself.
Can you be a citizen of three countries, and not know the words to any national anthem? Do Customs think it’s funny when you change identities mid-flight?
After years of asking the big questions in hit shows like “If you want me, I’ll be in the Bar” and “Rock Plus Roll” Jeremy Elwood tries answering one. Just who the hell does he think he is?
Elwood has lived in three countries, performed in fourteen and visited at least forty in a life shaped by politics, religion, language and heritage. A stranger in many strange lands, he has spent his life as “that guy with the funny accent”, observing, absorbing and dissecting many of the ways we live and interact. During the 2007 NZ International Comedy Festival, the world premiere of “Passport Control” will examine how these years have shaped his worldview, and how he got to where he is today – arguably New Zealand’s best male stand up comedian. In this, his most personal and honest show to date, Elwood aims to look beneath his own life, and yours.
A veteran of numerous comedy festivals in New Zealand, Melbourne, Adelaide, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Elwood has recently completed another whirlwind world tour, appearing at venues in the Caribbean, UK, US and Canada, including The Comedy Store (London and Los Angeles), Jongluers (UK), Yuk Yuks (Canada) and recording two episodes of “The World Stands Up” for the US Paramount Comedy Channel, the first New Zealand based act to ever do so.
Passport Control – 2007 NZ International Comedy Festival
Wellington; May 9 – 12. 8pm
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace.
Bookings: email@example.com or 04 802 4175
Auckland; May 14 – 19, 8:15pm
The Classic Studio, 321 Queen St.
Bookings: 0800 TICKETEK
Theatre , Comedy , Solo ,
There’s a paradox in there somewhere
Review by Sian Robertson 15th May 2007
With a slide show and songs providing interludes to complement a traditional stand-up routine, Elwood lightly skims the surface of what could be an interesting approach – an autobiographical look at national identity, hybrid accents and schoolyard politics. The structure is there but there’s not a lot to fill it up.
The images on the slides sometimes border on the sentimental and only partly relate to what he’s talking about, seeming at times gratuitous, and at others confusing, lending little to the pacing of the show. Touching on the difference between Canadians and Americans, English private school bigotry, Dunedin’s drinking culture, the war in Iraq, it feels more informative than entertaining.
Nor is there much in the show that relates to the title or to the implied content in the Festival Guide – where’s the awkward interlude with the customs officer? He feels more like a guest speaker at high school than a comedy act. It’s not a totally cohesive presentation, and he doesn’t get his hands dirty – it’s ‘nice’.
Perhaps this is an attempt to turn over a new leaf and get in touch with his sensitive side instead of laughing at other people’s expense… (Yurrcch!) Anyway it doesn’t quite work, and he seems more interested in doing something slightly different and/or philosophical than making us laugh.
For such a seasoned professional, his style is surprisingly colloquial, although to his credit he’s at ease onstage and at home interacting with the audience – which he could have exploited more, involving us and drawing out some more laughs. He got a reading of what regions and nationalities were represented in the crowd and then neglected to make anything of it, moving on to the next slide.
He seems bored. I haven’t seen Elwood perform live before, but it seems he’s stuck in a professional purgatory with this show – trying to strike out in a new direction, but not knowing where it should go. Ironic, because one of the themes of the show, and his closing motto, demonstrated with a song, is ‘be yourself’. However, he does afford himself the loophole: ‘…even if you’re not sure who you are’, which sounds like he’s giving us (and himself) an excuse to settle with being average and avoiding the big risks.
There’s a paradox in there somewhere.
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Very funny and likeable
Review by Kate Blackhurst 12th May 2007
Jeremy Elwood comes across as the kind of nice bloke you could have a good laugh with down the pub. His material is interesting, if safe, and pitched expertly at his audience – he works out where they’re all from with a clap-o-meter at the beginning. Fortunately there were no Americans in the full house, or if they were, they were keeping quiet, because they came in for a good bit of bashing. As did everybody.
Born in Canada, and having lived in Britain before moving to New Zealand, Elwood has some good observations about all of these places, and many more besides. (His comments on the French are spot-on!) Some of these are deliberate stereotypes, and he uses a slide show to illustrate some of the images we automatically associate with these countries, making no apologies for his views as he decries patriotism. Showing sweet innocent images of Canada he admits that his childhood memories are idyllic. They get darker as he grows up through the Thatcher years in Britain, but here’s the thing – they are not all light and fluffy when he gets to New Zealand either. Being English, I am used to having my culture ridiculed, but it was refreshing to see the smugness wiped from some Kiwi faces.
He introduced songs seamlessly into the show, cleverly addressing such topics as protest singers, one-hit wonders and ‘accepting what you are’, which could have been a bit Oprah Winfrey if it weren’t so witty. My favourite bits of the night, however, were his tangents, which he couldn’t help indulging. Known for his political and social satire, he broke out of the framework of the set to riff on gun control, the anti-smacking bill and the TV drinking awareness adverts currently in vogue. His spiel on Derek from accounts et al was the highlight for me.
Elwood confesses that he is premiering this hour-long show (he glanced at his watch occasionally to make sure he was on track) and his voice was a little ragged due to a bout of flu, but his self-depreciating tone was endearing and made the audience feel he was talking with us rather than at us. Leaving the theatre, you felt like you just wanted to stay and chat; if he really is anything like his stage persona, Jeremy Elwood is a very funny and likeable man.
Originally published in The Lumière Reader.
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A lot to like but little to laugh at
Review by Thomas LaHood 11th May 2007
A stand-up comedian performing with the flu is tough to review, because you have to accept that their performance is below par due to circumstances beyond their control – to some extent anyway.* So at first, as Jeremy Elwood bravely soldiered on under the unforgiving lights of Bats Theatre, I thought that I was really enjoying his show – but I was probably just being polite.
The show’s concept is full of promise, but ultimately Elwood does not deliver enough material to do it justice. This man has three passports and has travelled the world all his life but has few anecdotes to show for it. He offers a miserly two travel tips, and nothing on customs (as hinted at in the publicity material); no tales of mistaken identity, miscommunication, being lost or stuck in transit. Apparently he has visited 52 individual nations but we never get to hear which they are, or anything about them.
Instead Elwood provides only a cursory examination of Canada, the UK and New Zealand, perhaps the least exotic spectrum possible. Even a quick survey of the audience reveals more variety, turning up an Israeli and an American, and it looks at first as if something might be made of this, but in the end Elwood has no material to draw out the potential friction.
So what new does Elwood have to tell us about living in the Global Era? It’s hard to say. The material about Canada and the UK is a bit flabby, mostly about national identity – a lack of it in the former and a surfeit in the latter – but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Neither does the material about the Falklands war. Elwood brings one potentially great subject after another to the fore only to somehow tidy it away again before it gets going.
The best and most focussed material is on the war in Iraq, where Elwood really connects with his vitriolic anger and sharpens up the humour considerably. But it’s disappointingly short-lived. Likewise, his songs, interspersed erratically throughout the set, are cohesive and funny and get good responses from the crowd, but do little to support the overall theme of the show.
The stand-up is introduced and punctuated by way of PowerPoint slide projection, which works ok in a structural sense but is similarly weak in content. The images that have been chosen are personal, iconic, but not especially funny. The musical accompaniment is likewise baffling – obscure and again not intrinsically funny, nor does it place the imagery in a context that would make it funny, so… is it just filler, then?
In the final analysis there is a lot to like about Jeremy Elwood. He is all for making this world a better place, loves music, wants people to ‘be themselves’ and doesn’t believe in war or want to fight in one. But for an hour’s worth of stand-up there is precious little to laugh at.
*I’m not sure that comedians are very good at looking after themselves.
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