JON BENNETT Fire in the Meth Lab

Q Theatre, The Vault, Auckland

06/05/2014 - 10/05/2014

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

14/05/2014 - 17/05/2014

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

13/04/2017 - 13/04/2017

Philip Carter Family Auditorium, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch

18/01/2018 - 27/01/2018

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014


Production Details

Created and performed by Jon Bennett


Dear Brother, How’s jail? How many cigarettes does it cost for a picture of a naked lady? Are you getting really strong? I won’t ask any of the scary questions … yet. I’ll save that for the show. I’ve written a show about you, is that ok? You’re in jail so you can’t really say no. Love from your little brother, Jon

Renowned Australian storyteller Jon Bennett makes his 2014 NZ International Comedy Festival debut in Auckland (6 – 10 May) and Wellington (14 – 17 May) with a show that tells the amazingly sordid and bizarre story of his brother’s life.

A sometimes shocking and chaotic tale, Bennett recounts his brother’s experiences with both charismatic hilarity and heart-warming, poignant reflection. Fire in the Meth Lab tells of drug dealers, bikers, high-speed car chases, fights, crime, prison, vomit, exploding houses and even cancer. This is Breaking Bad with a little more breaking, and lot more bad. Bennett is no stranger to milking family drama for the stage.

A 3x Just For Laughs Best comedy nominee in Montreal, he has performed at Just For Laughs, Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne International Comedy Festival plus major festivals in Australia, US, Canada & Europe. A gifted storyteller, this is Bennett’s 3rd touring show after Pretending Things Are A Cock and My Dad’s Deaths.

New York Story Slam Winner “Armed only with self-deprecating wit and memories, Bennett reminds us that ordinary people live extraordinary lives” – ★★★★★ The Sunday Mail, Adelaide
“Gut-wrenchingly good. Bennett is a master storyteller” – ★★★★ Time Out, Melbourne
Bennett is the patron saint of storytelling” – ★★★★ Broadway Baby, UK
“JAIL, Jason Donovan, bikie gangs, therapy and all the un-savory memories of childhood come together in this addictive morality tale.” Herald Sun, Melbourne

As part of the 2014 NZ International Comedy Festival in cahoots with Old Mout Cider, grab some mates and join us for a great night of laughs from 24 April – 18 May.

For the full Comedy Fest show line-up head to

Dates: Tue 6 – Sat 10 May 2014, 8.45pm
Venue: Vault at Q, 305 Queen St Tickets: Adults $24, Conc. $20
Bookings: 09 309 9771 //

WELLINGTON Dates: Wed 14 – Sat 17 May 2014, 9.30pm
Venue: BATS Theatre, Cnr Cuba & Dixon Sts
Tickets: Adults $20, Conc. $16
Bookings: 04 802 4175 // 

As part of the Jon Bennett Trilogy at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
11-13 April 2017, 8.30pm
Fire in The Meth Lab: April 13th 8.30pm


“It took me several minutes to regain my hearing after the show, not from Bennett’s delivery but from the level of laughter the packed crowd generated.” The West Australian

“Fire in the Meth Lab is f*cking hilarious!” Forget the Box Canada

Phillip Carter Family Auditorium at the Christchurch Art Gallery
18 – 27 January 

Stand-up comedy , Solo , Comedy , Theatre ,

55 mins

Bloody funny with uncommon compassion and empathy

Review by Erin Harrington 22nd Jan 2018

Jon Bennett’s a gifted comedian and a hypnotic storyteller, as those who have seen his hugely popular show Pretending Things Are a Cock will attest to. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s playing in repertory with this one as a part of the World Buskers Festival.)

Fire in the Meth Lab is an emotionally complex account of his older brother Tim’s experiences with addiction and the impact of this upon those close to him. It dances between gut-busting comedy and gut-ripping pathos.

Bennett offers us a relatable hook: older siblings can be remarkable bullies, and the relationships that we have with our families often defy sense. We follow Tim’s trajectory from garden-variety dickhead older brother to someone troubled who relies increasingly in drugs, until he’s an adult and a meth cook for a biker gang and everything goes up, literally, in flames. So, sure, Tim was a bully – but was there something more pathological there? Why do some people have addictive personalities, while others can manage their relationships (and their drugs)?

Bennett intersperses bittersweet stories of their relationship and hilarious family anecdotes with fictionalised epistolary interludes in which he and jail-bound Tim correspond. There’s dogs, exorcisms, ice cream eaten from buckets, magic mushroom freak outs, secret masturbation, appalling car trips and some power chucking.

It’s a deceptively casual affair – Bennett chats with the audience beforehand and includes us in this conversation throughout. He makes use of a no-frills PowerPoint presentation featuring gag-heavy, embarrassing family photos and video clips, as well as a handful of cheap props and (most entertainingly) a bizarre board game based on esoteric Jason Donovan trivia that, we are told, was his brother’s childhood obsession.

The question Jon poses early on – how do you love an asshole? Especially one who sometimes shows you love? – is rendered as baffling as the “What is Jason’s favourite postcards?” If Tim and Jon’s story is a tapestry, then the ridiculous and the tragic become warp and weft.

Bennett’s endearing and irreverent style belies a meticulous grasp on pace and vocal technique, especially when he accelerates from seemingly casual banter into an auctioneer’s machine gun patter and then drops, suddenly, into something more measured and vocally rich. It’s a wrenching and masterful relationship between tension and release, and a pleasure to see (and hear) someone use silence to good effect. The Philip Carter Family Auditorium, with its natural acoustics and its intimate seating, is an excellent venue for this mode of performance.

I’m in an unusually good, or bad, position to review this show, depending on your disposition, as someone I used to be in a long-term relationship with died just a month ago from the health complications of his own addiction. This means that I’m particularly receptive to and appreciative of the way Bennett uses humour, be it mordant, absurdist, or scatological, to try to tease apart the conditions and logic of addiction, which itself often seems as inexplicable the rules of the sort of idiosyncratic games devised by bored siblings that Bennett opens with.

I hope Bennett’s able to realise his ambition of touring the show around jails and rehab centres. Fire in the Meth Lab is bloody funny, but it’s also an uncommon exercise in compassion and empathy that doesn’t attempt to reduce the complexities of addiction and family relationships into an easy narrative – even though he’s able to spin it all into a cracking yarn with a banger of an epilogue.


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Grows with its maker from crudely juvenile to insightful and even profound

Review by John Smythe 14th Apr 2017

Seeking an answer to why a bullying brother progressed through a range of addictions to meth and thus into prison is the quest that drives the third show in Jon Bennett’s trilogy. That and the challenge of creating an entertaining show about it, replete with projected images, props, well-managed audience participation and his gift for yarn-spinning.

As with My Dad’s Deaths, the theory that Truth + Pain = Comedy is proved. And as with Pretending Things Are a Cock as well, it’s another way of sharing his journey from a childhood in rural South Australia, as the youngest of four brothers with conservative religious parents, through adolescence and young adult ‘freedom’ to a more mature realisation of a universal truth or three about life and humans being in it.

The hook this time is being bullied, by an older brother (who is younger than two others). Audience members are quick to share details of their own traumatic experiences. One woman even confesses to bullying her younger brothers!  

There is always a confessional dimension to Jon’s work and you can feel the empathy strengthen as we realise human failings can be admitted. Serious drama and even tragedy also underpin to comic relief, not least in what we learn about his love of dogs. And his brother.  

Meanwhile there is lots of fun to be had, rediscovering the ancient art of Belly Bucking, recalling (if you are the right age) Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Wonder Years, Jason Donovan – all integral to the greater story but adding the warm feeling of nostalgia, or cringe of embarrassment to the mix. As for his puberty story, you will either recognise the syndrome or gape with astonishment.

The thread that pulls it all together this time is the brother’s addictions, starting innocently enough with icecream. The event that gives Fire in the Meth Lab its name is horrific. The follow through to the final (or most recent) addiction is surprising. And his political point about treating drug addiction as an illness to be treated instead of as a crime to be punished is very well made.

As with the others, this show grows with its maker from crudely juvenile to insightful and even profound. 


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A wickedly funny performer

Review by Robbie Ellis 16th May 2014

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I don’t think Jon Bennett uses this exact phrase within his one-hour monologue show, but it is totally apt to the message.  

Fire in the Meth Lab’s pre-show impression relies heavily on the imagery of Breaking Bad: a gritty, solid colour-filtered photo of a hoodied figure; the letter symbols of the periodic table within the title graphics; and pre-show music full of the pedal steel of southwest American desperation. But the set – consisting of presumably locally sourced objects like used Resene paint buckets, a dingy old 70s armchair, an LPG bottle – locates the show more clearly in this part of the world. 

Jon Bennett grew up the youngest of four children in a South Australian country town, the son of a Christian minister. By and large it was a happy, well-adjusted upbringing free from deprivation. He explains all this to give context to his next-younger brother, Tim: clearly a much more troubled character. 

Tim is an addict and Jon describes the various obsessions he’s gone through: alcohol, drugs, religion and childhood popstar fanaticism. The sixth and final addiction is meth, and we hear of the many poorly judged decisions that this compulsion leads to. 

Jon tells stories of the two Bennetts plus their extended family in a variety of ways: monologues that vary in tone from rapid-fire mushroom trips to the most poignant funereal whisper; letters between the brothers delivered as voiceovers; captioned photos (both family photos and whatever he grabbed off Google Image Search); TV and music video footage from the 80s and 90s; callbacks that border on dadaist; and the odd bit of physical theatre and mime. 

A wickedly funny performer, Jon presents his ideas and thoughts with a simply marvellous precision. He’s paced his show in such a way that he can have us rolling in the aisles for five solid minutes, flip on a dime, and within half a second deliver us a whopping emotional kick to the guts.

He’s made his peace with everything from minor childhood embarrassments to near-death experiences, and with the foibles of both himself and other people. He can share these with us because from the moment we walk into the theatre, Jon is open, charming, affable, but most of all, compassionate. 

Fire in the Meth Lab is a story of familial love despite terrible events and terrible choices. This year’s Comedy Festival has been blessed with some great shows from sensitive performers who have found comedy in personal tragedy (Carey Marx, Tom Wrigglesworth and Jamie Bowen to name three) and Jon Bennett is another.

He doesn’t need more quotes and plaudits from me – the reviews on his flyer have more stars than a Hollywood red carpet – all I can say is that it’s great storytelling. He’s wronged, he gets angry, he forgives. It’s a beautiful way to spend an hour.


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