The Civic – THE EDGE®, Auckland

24/04/2014 - 24/04/2014

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

Production Details


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.

OIL UP THOSE LAUGHING GEARS – this is going to be one helluva ride!


For those who can’t get to the live show – catch the Old Mout Cider Comedy Gala, Monday 28th April, 8.30pm on TV3, your home of comedy.

Date: Thursday 24th April 2014, 8pm 
Venue: The Civic, Cnr Queen and Wellesley Streets, Auckland CBD
Tickets:  $94.90 (booking fees apply)
Bookings:  TICKETMASTER – www.ticketmaster.co.nz or 09 970 9700
Duration:  2+ hours  

For the full Comedy Festival line-up head to comedyfestival.co.nz 

Theatre , Stand-up comedy ,

2hrs +


Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 25th Apr 2014

This is the start of the NZ International Comedy Festival and a good couple of thousand punters are cramming into the many levels of Auckland’s regal Civic Theatre. As last year a last-minute booking meant I was unable to review the show I am delighted that this year I have made it along.

There is a high vibe in the bar which carries through into the room, indeed we are at New Zealand’s premier comedy event; flashbulbs popping, loud jabber, air kissing and fab frocks. And the new look which has become de rigeur; the swathes of hipsters: big beards, skinny jeans, skinny ties and velveteen blazers coupled with wafer thin gals in ironically mismatched vintage clobber.

Given that the Gala is the launch of the festival proper, the acts that are successful in being selected to perform have a captive live audience along with a potentially massive at-home audience of comedy fans who will see the show early next week. These thousands are potential ticket buyers, and each act that will take to the stage tonight has a show in this festival, so no one is in it for the hayride: making money is the goal and selling tickets makes money!

This of course means that the choice of material and ultimately its execution is of paramount consideration for each act. Many a time and oft have I seen the Gala be the making or indeed the breaking of a performer; experience helps but not every time. Some of the most established comedians are capable of bungling their tiny three minute spot, where every second of that time matters. Given that MC Irish comedian Jason Byrne will introduce a whopping twenty acts tonight, each performer has an obligation to stick to their allotted time and be so super entertaining that the hours just fly by.

I have both performed and attended as an audience member over the last seventeen years that I have worked as a professional comedian and the one thing that I am really interested to see is what material tonight’s acts will choose to showcase themselves with, as this is indeed their single biggest shot at nailing their festival.

Jason Byrne is immediately likeable as he comes out to warm us up (the sure-fire combination of his Irish lilt and the free flowing Old Mout Cider samples have already got the crowd glowing so it is a cake walk); as the show starts ‘proper’ his Miley Cyrus-inspired entrance brings guffaws of recognition; right there the first rule of comedy has been adhered to: ‘talk about what you know’ and everyone knows poor, tragic Miley.

It isn’t too long before Jason gets my dander up with a few slants angled directly at women, a theme that carries through the show at certain points in the night (boy, us women are just a nasty bunch it would seem!). John Gordillo kicks things off, from the UK he muses a little flatly on the impact same-sex marriage has had on his family. Cute but fails to really fly with a crowd that has been listening to same-sex japes for a while now.

First Kiwi comedian off the rank is James Nokise: full flair in a stunning white tuxedo jacket, bowtie and striking strides (James loves a suit and is sponsored by Frank Casey; they have him suited and booted to the enth of savvy style this evening!). His energy and choice of material is bang on target, getting easy laughs. I said it last year at the festival and I will say it again, he is fast becoming one of the best comedians this country has produced, and he can dance! 

Not easy, then, for first timer Carl Donnelly to follow, though he does so with the ease of a man who you would think had been touring NZ his whole life! His tragic tale of near death by crumpet has us all charmed. 

Kiwi boy Jamie Bowen runs with tried and true gags that I have seen many times, but good on him. Tonight is the night to rock out your best gags; risk-taking is a rookie mistake. The laughs are sure and steady, bravo.

‘Frenchman’ Marcel Lucont is up next and as he is introduced there is no doubting that over the years the has travelled out to us he has become a much loved fixture of the festival He chooses to dig at our trans-Tasman cousins which again is a sure fire way to bring hearty LoLs. He makes character comedy look almost irritatingly easy. Well done. 

The first of only three female comedians to appear in tonight’s show is 2013 Billy T Award winner Rose Matafeo. Since the win she has chosen to pursue television opportunities over live gig work which shows as she limps through some fairly awkward material, though she brings it together in closing with her tried and true impersonations. 

Steven K Amos (UK) is up next and no stranger to the festival. His material is rather edgy and at times unfunnily so, however he is very charming and charm goes a long way.

Sam Simmons is in from Australia and gets the giggles going with some self-deprecation (he’s bald). Oh well. He has the element of music which is perfect timing as the crowd is starting to get scratchy and in need of a leg stretch and a visit to the bathroom (we have been sitting now for almost two hours). His bread slippers and bread roll ping pong is physical and engaging but fails to get me going, though the crowd seems right into it. I just see wasted food but that’s me.

Another first-time Brit visitor, Sarah Pascoe, strides on to the stage and is all class. Her quiet confidence and confident delivery of gags firmly rooted in traditional style gets her top marks with us all. I am left really wanting to see her show (note this is the first time I have experienced this tonight). 

Kiwi comedy hero Jarred Christmas is gold from go to whoa. Living in the UK he has not lost his down-to-earth Kiwi accent nor his Kiwi bloke attitude, bringing steady laughs of recognition as he talks about same sex marriage. Now you have read this far so you will know it is not the first time this topic has been bandied about this evening, but Jarred gets it right in stating the obvious with insight and proper jokes.

Perhaps the richest laugh is as he leaves, again stating the obvious: we are all itching for a break. His finish is in my top three of the night, something many of tonight’s acts (especially those who will perform after the break) fail to carry off, and nothing wrecks all the good laughs of a short set more than an awkward exit. 

The second half kicks off with a too long set from Jason Byrne, the crescendo of which is a xylophone-esque ding-along to that 80s chestnut of a tune, ‘Popcorn’. It irks me a little that he spends so long hassling his volunteers who he thinks sound funny (accent-wise). I am laughing out of embarrassment; oh man, we DO sound funny. He isn’t clever enough at targeting our biggest insecurity for me to look past the fact that this is NZ, this is what we sound like. Jason Byrne is a visitor, so actually it’s HE who sounds funny. 

James Acaster is as always stunning. He is the essence of nerdy awesomeness, always the butt of his own jokes and so endearing with it. Getting laughs is simplicity for this man who is gifted beyond his years (cannot wait to see his show!).

Kiwi Nick Rado follows and is clearly not on his A game tonight. We laugh at his Raro sachet and yoga fart jokes but there is something amiss which I can’t quite put my finger on; perhaps it’s nerves. I would hate to have to follow James Acaster!

Ben Hurley bounds on to the stage like a rock star. He is one of the most recognizable faces in NZ comedy at the moment but his set is not immediately as on par as his profile would demand. There is clearly a lot of love in the room for him though; the audience are buoyant and warm as he muses on racism and swearing. 

Guy Williams is true to his ironic, hip form, talking about Game of Thrones and treating us to a ‘real time’ cyber bullying attack on Brian Tamaki.

Brit Tom Binns, AKA Ian D Montford, psychic ‘comedium’ is a joy. He contacts people you don’t know, who have a message for you. It’s funny. It isn’t rocket science but it is solid. Again I find myself looking forward to his full-length show.

Paul Ego gives us comfort food comedy in the style of Kiwi joker yarns that he has become best known for. Solid.  

Steve Hughes is hit and miss with his angry aeroplane gags. His shouting at the crowd about broccoli and vaginas makes me wonder what market he is targeting. 

South African migrant Urzila Carlson is again clearly a crowd favourite as she arrives on stage. Proudly a ‘happy fattie’ and in love with New Zealand, she gets a dig in likening her hometown of Bonnone to Ngaruawahia (in that it is a shithole) and there it is; as a proud Waikato girl I have been waiting all night to see who would throw a serve our way. 

Reginald D Hunter follows and gets laughs immediately with his theories on Oscar Prestorious. He’s saying what we are all thinking until he lays into how vindictive women are when it comes to being told where we are allowed to go to the bathroom. He loses me here, but then I feel like I have spent a lot of tonight listening to women being given a hard time. But it is getting late and my wick is shortening. However at last count I am pretty sure we are near the end. 

All charm and ginger curls, Rhys Darby closes the show with his signature physical comedy, his jazz ballet and japes over pick-pockets bring the laughs from an increasingly tired crowd. He manages to squeeze the last of the life out of the room and I have to take my hat off: he is a great act to wrap the night up in to a tidy bundle.

As Jason sends us all home I reflect: the show has been as it always is, a mixed bag; not everyone likes all the jellybeans in the packet, right? One thing I cannot state enough, it’s definitely value for money when one sees a show this crammed full. That I would like to have seen more women on stage is a given, but hey, we live in an age where honestly, if a joke is good then gender is irrelevant. Funny is funny and many of tonight’s comedians were. 

So the night ends and we all file out into the night, past comedians (some of whom have been on stage and many who have not) proffering fliers and smiles in the quest to get bums on seats. It is in this moment that I am glad I have not chosen to stage a show this year. I don’t have the monumental amount energy and drive required not only to write a show but in turn sell it. Theirs is admirable and I wish them all, whether they performed in the Gala or not; the very best for the festival. 


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