Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

13/05/2014 - 17/05/2014

Q Theatre, Luna, Auckland

06/05/2014 - 10/05/2014

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

Production Details


It’s a fact: there has never been a NZ musical comedy duo which has had major international success, toured all over the world, and had a spectacularly bitter breakup… until now… ahem.

Coming to the 2014 NZ International Comedy Festival in Auckland 6 – 10 May and Wellington 13 – 17 May, this is the story of Augmented Fourth. Its rise from a school common room to the world’s biggest arenas seemed unstoppable, until the band split up in spectacular fashion. Reuniting for one last tour, will you be treated to the most thrilling concert of your lives, or a total meltdown?

Featuring the comedic and musical talents of Sam Smith and Robbie Ellis, Augmented Fourth promises drama, intrigue, musical genius, and more than a few puns.

Sam Smith is an accomplished writer, comedian, and musician, and was a national finalist in the 2011 Raw Comedy Quest. His first solo show Samantics won Best Wellington Newcomer at the 2013 NZ International Comedy Festival. He writes for TV3′s 7 Days, Jono and Ben at Ten, and sitcom Sunny Skies.

Robbie Ellis is a comedian, musician, composer, improviser and broadcaster based in Auckland – you name it, he can play it. After years of accompanying the country’s best improvisors and hitting the Youtubes with gems like Politics the Musical, he’s joined forces with Sam to bring their combined musical talents to the masses.

You’ve seen them together in standup, sketch, Song Sale, musicals, Greek tragedy, improv, ska bands, barbershop quartets and bluegrass – now see their debut feature show! Recommended for anybody who has ever listened to any music … ever.

“Sam Smith is God’s favourite NZ comedian – and mine” – Michael Palin

Genuinely hilarious plethora of talent” – Theatreview

Outstanding” – Johnsonville Library

Ellis’s… musical comedic timing and delivery is impeccable.” Theatreview

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: 6-10 May, 7pm
Venue: Luna at Q Theatre, Lower Greys Ave
Tickets: Adults $18, Conc. $15, Groups of 6+ $15
Bookings: 09 309 9771 or (booking fees may apply)

Dates: 13-17 May, 7pm
Venue: The Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St
Tickets: Adults $18, Conc. $15, Groups of 6+ $15
Bookings: 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) or (booking fees may apply)

Totally worth it for the music alone

Review by Maryanne Cathro 15th May 2014

I am still not entirely sure what an augmented fourth is. Something to do with ending a song on a note that is a fourth interval, which is jarring to ears that are more accustomed to seconds and thirds. Nerdy musician humour.  Sam loves them and Robbie does not. Robbie tries to explain and Sam won’t let him because it is technical and boring.  

Sam Smith and Robbie Ellis are fabulous musicians, and amazing song writers. The songs in this show are just the biz. Hard rock, rap, disco, the national anthem, children’s music, compositional essays; so many genres, so many clever lyrics. So many instruments employed and exchanged in making those songs happen! Both accomplished musicians, they make it look easy.   

These two have taken contrasting personae: Sam is scruffy and irreverent; Robbie is nerdy and pedantic. The contrived tensions this causes are a little over egged and really unnecessary. There is plenty of humour going on there already without trying to generate more; let the music carry the show, it is well and truly capable of doing so. Less is more!

The vague story arc is a retelling of their fictitious career, from circus band to international outcasts to Icelandic rock heroes and winners of the Eurovision Song Contest – with a song that really would leave all the usual entries for dust, if the language would be permissible. 

In the closing rock number the guys prove yet again their music is fabulous, but they turn out to be terrible hypnotists because an attempt to hypnotise all the reviewers in the audience into quoting their exact words fails so badly, I have to get Robbie to write them out for me afterwards. 

They said, and I quote:

Robbie: “Sam Smith and Robbie Ellis are musical, comedic and astrological geniuses. Every arts festival director with a fat wallet should programme them immediately.” 

Sam: “The final song alone was worth the price of admission” 

Robbie: “And if I had to sum up my review in just four words: I loved this show!” 

While I am not entirely sure where the astrology came into it, it is true, I did love this show. It is totally worth it for the music alone.  


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Versatile talents need an outside eye to modulate the relentless pace

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 07th May 2014

NZ has proudly watched an outstanding NZ musical comedy duo rise to international stardom over the last decade or so.  Alongside them, an equally outstanding character comedian perfected the art of obvious silliness as a way of flawlessly entertaining his audience. And before The Flight of the Conchords and their manager Murray, in the 1980s there was the remarkable groundbreaking Front Lawn. Each of these artists perfected their pace, timing, delivery, story-telling and characterizations to create devised shows for stage and screen that raised the global bar, and set a new standard and audience’s expectation.

Tough acts for candidates of the same genre to follow.

I commend much of Robbie Ellis and Sam Smith’s offerings in their two-man musical comedy show, Augmented Fourth

The men are at the strongest when they play rather than banter. Between them, the two accomplished artists switch around between an impressive array of instruments including electric guitar, ukulele, drums, keys, trumpet, harmonica and glockenspiel played with a spoon.

They are both versatile, talented musicians and excellent songwriters, who have devised a show that is very tightly written, relentlessly fast-paced and at times, clever. 

However, their links between songs are so quick-fire and overly scripted, that the conversation feels unreal and at times, the jokes are lame and obvious. (The “harmonica in my pocket” line comes to mind…) Natural banter and a normal pace, with pauses and organic rhythms, can be so much easier to engage with as an audience member. By contrast, at times I feel overwhelmed with Robbie and Sam’s chats, which are stacked high with puns and piled to the max with information. There’s little room to breathe. 

Often the core of the spoken content is good, but the unyielding pace, and lack of comedic timing and a more considered approach to their overall performance arch, means the otherwise impressive premise is less than the sums of its parts. Too often, it feels like both men throw in gratuitous f***s into sentences or songs, perhaps because they think that will up the funny-stakes. However, listeners tend to desensitize. 

On saying that, the full opening night house is happily laughing in all the right places, throughout the hour, as Robbie and Sam take us through the history of their make-up career, from circus band; to how they got their name; to winning NZ’s Got Talent; to children’s TV show hosts (they are a bit like The Wiggles on speed at times); to #1 MOR hits about feelings; a rewrite of the national anthem; an Icelandic song-scape; to the Eurovision song quest; to making obscene amounts of money from a light commercial generic musical underlay for a TVC; to a new-age world-music cultural offering featuring two pebbles, that would excite the likes of NZ composers Jack Body and Helen Bowater. 

What is not exciting for anyone is Robbie Ellis’ attempt at pretending to do a bad stand-up comedy routine. Best left to geniuses who know the game and the rules, and how to break them. 

My musical highlight of the hour, as Robbie and Sam take the piss out of many modern musical genres, is their hip-hop master-piece, ‘Don’t F*** with JSB’ (Johann Sebastian Bach) during which both men work their hides off, add bites of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in the underlay as well as rap-rhythms and rhymes like “Carmina Burana Marijuana”. The duo bounces round stage so much their back-line instruments fall over. Perhaps the reason why this item is such a stand out is because it’s performed with more freedom, with both men feeding off each other very well and totally ‘in the moment’ rather than over acting.

I also very much enjoy their prowess as songwriters. A clever musical reference to the French National Anthem on keys, when they sing their circus song about imported horses, is indicative of the skill and eye for detail that underpins their song writing. Equally clever, is the musical reincorporation of past themes in their last song, which also features suggested comments for reviewers in the lyrics. Nice try.

I really enjoy Augmented Fourth’s songs. In terms of their show overall, I feel the two are at their best when they are high on their own stupidity. If the best of those moments could be peppered with some calm, perhaps the overall conversation might sound more fresh and real rather than very well-rehearsed. Perhaps a strong directorial outside eye could settle this show into a more digestible groove and delivery.


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