Johanna Cosgrove – Hi, Delusion!

BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

23/05/2023 - 27/05/2023

NZ International Comedy Festival 2023

Production Details

Directed by Jess Joy Wood


She hit her 30’s in a pandemic, has been slowly slipping into the void since, and is determined to take everyone down with her.

Part stand-up, part sketch, and 100% stunning, this darkly hilarious new hour from award-winning polymath Johanna Cosgrove (AUNTY, Iconoclast) will take you to the brink and back.

Directed by award-winning Jess Joy Wood (Kura Shoulda Woulda), Hi, Delusion! is the hysterical and cursed extravaganza you never knew you needed. Strap in because one gorgeous woman is about to randomly spiral in front of your living eyes for 60 full minutes!

Welcome to Hi, Delusion!

Price: $20 – $25
Time: 8.30PM

Comedian – Johanna Cosgrove

Comedy , Theatre , Stand-up comedy , Solo ,

60 minutes

Comedy of truth about delusion deserves a long life

Review by John Smythe 24th May 2023

At first blush Johanna Cosgrove’s Hi, Delusion! heralds a new wave of vulgarian comedy. But wait, there’s more …

I’m far too young to have witnessed Sophie Tucker in action but when I was about Johanna age, our generation was wowed by Bette Midler’s retelling of Sophie Tucker stories (find them on YouTube). “A true vulgarian,” Bette called her. That may also be an apt description of the persona Johanna brings to her show. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” as Johanna might have put it on her back-packing OE in France (age 18).

But Johanna’s inspired pisstake of her own Millennial generation, superseded only by her Gen-Z take-down, is much more substantial, content-wise, than Sophie’s ‘Red Hot Mama’ vaudeville routines between the World Wars. This is penetrating psycho-socio vulgarity for the 21st century. It’s the shrieks of laughter Johanna provokes by sending verbal and physical shockwaves through our woke sensibilities that makes me draw the comparison.

Bold and beautiful – and wickedly intelligent, it must be said – in a short black flimsy frock, long black (faux?) patent leather boots and a flimsy black veil, Johanna offsets her straight-from-the-lip and often black humour with a dazzling smile: perfect white teeth framed in bright red lipstick. Further enhanced by her eye makeup, Johanna’s range of non-verbal expressions, in instant response to our reactions and behaviour, add great value to the rich experience Hi, Delusion! offers.

She brings on her cellphone because she’s “been on hold for a very long time”, which pretty well captures her generation’s state of being. Acknowledging anxiety, “after all we’ve been through,” is her starting point but don’t expect compassion from someone whose main aim in life, and death, is to be adored. Yes, there is an inherent contradiction there in terms of how love happens, but it’s up to us to work that out. Johanna is counting on us to be intelligent too.

Despite being a 31 year-old, white, straight, she/her woman, she claims to tick other boxes that make her cool – including what qualifies her as oppressed. Sure, she’s “two ticks Green” but the way she name-checks Greta Thunberg and Jo Rogan tells us more about her actual value system.

Johanna’s reasons for leaving Auckland include what may be encountered in the water, the air and on the Waiheke ferry – and that’s where Gen Z comes in. Her quest to find love post 2020 reveals insights into what she wants in a man and segues into a showstopping demonstration of hacky sack in Cuba Mall. In those boots! But having a relationship during Covid Lockdown brings its own challenges. Then there’s the hook up with a CEO which requires her to go “full method” – did I mention Johanna is a Toi Whakaari graduate? – and leads to strong opinions about how she will bring up a son if she has one.

The presence of her family members in the audience on opening night brings an extra edge to what she has to say about them and this is where her humour gets very dark. Suffice to say Heavenly Creatures / Daughters of Heaven are referenced. The ‘entitled Millennial’ is to the fore, not least with regard to how she was cast in the stage play.

Johanna’s sojourn in France engenders the story of the straw fedora and produces a spectacular ‘production value’ moment. Success at the Edinburgh Fringe (I think with Aunty in 2018?) is contrasted with the job she resorted to back in Auckland, in a Strip Club. This is one of a number of sequences where we may ask ourselves if we are laughing at, with or in spite of.

When at last Johanna’s phone call is answered, the bizarre exchange that follows speaks volumes about the struggle people in their thirties have as they seek to self-identify, especially when the world regards them as privileged. Her rage at its remaining unresolved is either very deep felt or over the top, depending on your point of view. Savage satire this may be but there is also pathos in her quest.

What brings Hi, Delusion! home also explains her costume choice, as she reveals her elaborate plans for her own funeral. We are left in no doubt that larger-than-life Johanna is as delusional as real-life Johanna’s show is truthful, in that heightened way that produces exceptional comedy.

Hi, Delusion! deserves a long life and to become well-travelled.  


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