Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

24/04/2015 - 24/04/2015

NZ International Comedy Festival 2015

Production Details

Top Irish stand-up Ed Byrne will kick off the Comedy Festival with style live at The Civic.

Joining him in this deliciously hilarious taster of what’s to come over the next three weeks of the Festival are popular favourites; Wilson Dixon (US), Dai Henwood, Urzila Carlson, Craig Campbell (CAN), Des Bishop (IRE/US) and Tom Binns as Ivan Brackenbury (UK); alongside exciting new faces to the show including Guy Montgomery, Nish Kumar (UK) and lots more.

Filmed live for TV3, come and be part of the biggest and most glamorous night of the Festival.

Dates: Fri 24 April, 8pm

Venues: Live at The Civic, cnr Wellesley & Queen Sts

Tickets: A Reserve $94.90 ; B Reserve $79.90* service fees may apply

Bookings: 09 970 9700


MC: Ed Byrne

Comedians: Wilson Dixon (US), Dai Henwood, Urzila Carlson, Craig Campbell (CAN), Des Bishop (IRE/US) and Tom Binns as Ivan Brackenbury (UK); Guy Montgomery, Nish Kumar (UK) and others TBA

Comedy ,

2 hours +

Spoilt for choice

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 25th Apr 2015

It’s been 18 years since the small but perfectly witty Irish comedian Ed Byrne first performed in NZ. At the helm of the most well dressed, culturally diverse Comedy Gala I’ve seen since my first 23 years ago, Ed suits the role of host faultlessly. His cheeky and seemingly effortless narratives about whatever he chooses to chat about – The Grand Canyon, marriage, nicknames, porn, our PM’s embarrassing pony-tail antics, inappropriate clothing for young people, nerdy anagrams…. even his own stuff ups – get easy laughs from the audience during his every on-stage introduction or off-stage voice over. The Gala is a true testament of Ed’s finely tuned world-class comedy craft.   

Overall, while the Gala is (as always) too long and suffers from lack of air conditioning, after the 3 hour comedy marathon, there’s no denying that if every show in this year’s Festival is as good as the 21 hugely varied Gala performers, then NZ is in for an awesome few weeks. 

It’s great to see both established as well as increasingly well known New Zealand comedians such as Dai Henwood, Urzila Carlson, Steve Wrigley, Rose Matafeo, Guy Montgomery and Guy Williams, all do well, with many of them sticking to lighter observational material.

Infectiously upbeat Steve Wrigley had much to say about Fejoas, which resonates with many in the audience.

Dai Henwood is full of little unexpected tangents and explains why he is happy that only humans get hammered, in a way that only Dai can.

Urzila takes us to fun yet scary places such as Dad’s stubbies and angry car stickers.

Guy Montgomery makes great literal observations then labours on time and the man in the front row.

Guy Williams starts strong then finds out in real time that technology will not elevate his ‘you-could-be-the-next-Jesus’ routine into more than what it is.

Rose Matafeo is as appealing as ever to her generation, with plenty of amusing things to say about The Bachelor, Facebook and toys for young girls and boys.

In complete contrast, Jamie Bowen takes a massive leap into the obtuse and divvies up an existentialism pie. Jamie is a smart thinker and I suspect his religious ponderings would’ve faired much better during the first hour of the night, rather than the back end of our epic comic trek.

Three Kiwis stand head and shoulders above the rest of the homegrown Gala acts for me on the night.

First, comedian magician Jarred Fell, whose slick combination of verbal and physical nimbleness, is amazing.

Second, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer; who is becoming the new master of mixing irreverence with deadpan delivery; achieving much humour from a few well-chosen words and observations.

Lastly, American cowboy Wilson Dixon pulls a fine ponytail quip, then slips into the brilliant Nashville-drawl and ambling narrative, that has made this savvy unique character so popular. 

Content-wise, the international comedians are as diverse as the mix of cultures and countries they represent.

Aussie hard-man Harley Breen gets everyone’s attention as he swears by his rules of parenting.

Born in Malaysia, raised in the USA then Singapore, and now living in Australia, Chinese law-student-turned-comedian Ronny Chieng starts with the concept of reasonable doubt and ends with the threat of techno-warfare, and delivers one of the most popular routines of the night.

Lovely, polite, well-dressed Englishman Andrew Watts takes us on a fantastic roller-coaster ride from simple e-kiss to global economic meltdown, in a flash. The Gala’s quick-turn-around format only allows him scratch the surface of what he’s all about.

The same could be said of Nish Kumar, who I find intriguing, erudite and entertaining, in equal measure.

The third international who barely gets to warm up before it’s time to close the long night, is the great wild-man from Canada, Craig Campbell, who ‘lost in translation’ jokes are anything but. Craig refreshingly goes against the dress code of the night and rocks his 5-toe-shoes and Ice Breaker two-piece, to great effect.

Other internationals harness the Gala format well: UK comedian Carl Donnelly tells a ripping yarn about getting a sample from A to B in a tight time frame, which sits perfectly within the few minutes allotted to him.

Another natural-born story teller is blue-suited Irish-American stand-up Des Bishop, whose weird and wonderful tale about hair colour products for men, with gratuitous beat-box stylings thrown in along the way, gets a huge audience response.

UK comic Joel Dommett walks out on stage and two women near me whisper simultaneously, ‘He’s so cute!’ Billed as a rising star, young Joel is not just a pretty face and mixes the heavy metal band Korn with rousing musical theatre anthems, to produce a very watchable routine. 

Equally watchable, is Canadian DeAnne Smith. Stand aside Ellen: this woman should claim the title of ‘Queen of Chic Androgyny’. Full of sass and confidence, she flirts unashamedly with the women in the front row and resonates strongly with many in the room, right up to the women behind me.

The act that gets the biggest cheer of the night, despite performing late in the second half, is the UK’s Tom Binns, AKA hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury. Redefining special needs for his own comic purposes, Tom makes his character totally lovable, goofy, as well as thigh slappingly funny. Comedy gold. 

As with all the comedians who filled the 3 hours, it’s easy to see that Tom’s full show will be as entertaining as his brief Gala appearance. Auckland / NZ: you are simply spoilt for choice this year. The Festival awaits. Have at it. 


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