Steve Wrigley and Simon McKinney: Doomed to AWESOMENESS

San Francisco Bathhouse, 171 Cuba St, Wellington

22/05/2007 - 26/05/2007

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details

Created and performed by Steve Wrigley and Simon McKinney

They say there is only one great genius for every generation. They say there is only one great hero once a century. They were wrong and this is the show that will prove it. This is the meeting of Comedy Giants.

In the middle of last year Dunedin saw two hours of spectacular comedy. Steve Wrigley and Simon McKinney rocked the house with laughter at the Fortune Theatre, so much so that a once a month gig was held over two nights to accommodate the bookings. So, how then is it possible for these two comedians, with a combined 20 years on New Zealand comedy stages, not to have met each other until that fateful night?  After all, they shared friends on the circuit, they had been to the same places.  Notes were compared on both people and comic philosophy alike, and out of two days, two incredible shows and four hangovers McKinney and Wrigley became aware that together they were doomed. Doomed to AWESOMENESS!

Now Wellington will get to taste this savage combo over five nights, as from May 22nd to May 26th McKinney and Wrigley will perform back to back delivering one riotous hour of high energy, high octane, explosive comedy. Steve Wrigley will be detonating the stage with a completely improvised 30 minute set, drawing on his 10 years as Improv master and award winning stand up. Simon McKinney will release a depth charge of vocal hilarity, as the man of a thousand voices takes the audience on an incredible journey. Be at the San Francisco Bathhouse during the 2007 Festivals third week to catch Doomed to Awesomeness.

In the 2006 New Zealand International Comedy Festival, Steve Wrigley won the ‘Spirit of the Festival’ award. During that Festival he was involved in five different shows across the city of Wellington, including the 100% improvised ‘The Mullet Brothers Save the World…Again’ at BATS Theatre. Mullet Brothers achieved both sold out houses and critical acclaim being described as ‘Near Genius’. He came a close second, by one vote, in the first ever ‘Improv Idle’ competition at Circa, beating out many long time Improv veterans to a coveted spot in the final three. He also, in 2006, cleaned up at the Wellington Comedy Awards taking both Comedian of the Year and Best MC. Steve has taken his comedy to both New York and Canada, where he will return later this year to continue his exposure in North America.

Simon’s least favourite word at school was “potential”. A natural born Class Clown, he spent his schooldays making himself laugh and realized quickly the power of making OTHERS laugh. Armed with the power of comedy, he never looked back, and has since taken his stand-up comedy all over New Zealand and the United Kingdom, appearing in his own Edinburgh Festival show, and performing at the Jongleurs Comedy Bars, the Manchester Comedy Store, and regularly all over Scotland during his two years in Britain. His act has been described as ‘relaxed, abstract and observational’ (Edinburgh Evening News) and ‘Definitely one to catch’ (The List magazine) with a set full of satire, impersonations and musical parody, exploring the differences and similarities in accents and attitudes alike.

Dates:  Tue 22 – Sat 26 May, 7pm
Venue:  San Francisco Bathhouse, 171 Cuba St, Wellington City
Tickets:  Adults $15 Conc. $12 Groups 10+ $12
Bookings:  Ticketek 0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 5385)
Show Duration:  1 hour 

Theatre , Comedy ,

1 hr

From infected to infectious

Review by John Smythe 23rd May 2007

You may have noticed I delegated most of the Wellington stand-up shows to Thomas this year. Something made me admit it was not my favourite genre, so I picked the more theatrical shows, including improv. But with stand-up being the staple, I’ve had to cover a bit of that too.

It’s while watching Steve Wrigley – whose skill as an improviser is almost unsurpassed in my experience – that I realise why I’ve avoided stand-up. It has too much in common with the strategies of playground bullies. It finds people to pick on, either out in the wider world or right here in the room, and aims to make the rest of us feel good for joining the gang that’s against them. 

Oh it’s not as blunt as a skinhead thug with hate-tattooed knuckles. It’s more subtle than the standover tactics of a protection racket. But the principles are similar: join me against them and we’ll all feel better. Even the victim can join the club by going along with the game. I never liked it at school (even though I had good strategies for keeping out of the way of bullies) and I don’t like it now.

To be specific … Wrigley’s set starts very well. The formulaic stuff about PC friends, Goths, Emos and asking people in the audience what they do for a living soon rises to another level when he burst into an improvised song about the people we’ve just met. Of course he does it in an American accent but hey, it’s a corny song so why not? I suppose.

It’s his next interactions with audience members that start to rely more heavily on the put-down – little spazzy send-up gestures, that sort of thing. Then he tells a midget joke – and doesn’t seem to notice his once-receptive audience has gone quiet. His have-a-go-at-Christianity stuff (where God has a John Wayne accent) is not so much offensive as poorly pitched at the audience who probably know too little about it to get his point, care too little to be shocked or have confronted those questions and come to better conclusions a long time ago. Whatever, it doesn’t fire.

His ‘act three’ material is better – more whimsical and skilled in the delivery (he’s a master on mic technique) – but his audience remains less responsive than they might have been. And I’m thinking good, we Kiwis have taste and standards and if he found traction with that style in New York and Canada – got infected by the nasty bug, maybe? – I’m glad he’s finding it’s not so popular here.

So here I am with this flash theory about what’s wrong with stand-up per se and on comes Simon McKinney to totally blow it out of my wine glass. From the moment he tells us to take care of the candles (on our tables), which reminds him of the time a well coiffed customer combusted as she threw her head back in laughter, we’re hooked.

This ebullient man of many voices, and the uncanny ability to make everything sound as if he’s only just thought of it, is genuinely funny. Sure he’s playing with cultural stereotypes but not in a put-down way. He’s delighted to be observing and experiencing how people are around the world. And he’s well tuned into his audience, sensing when things are slipping and able to turn it into a plus.

Okay, maybe he is having a bit of a go at Arnie and Sly but hey, they’re mega stars, they’re paid to be mocked. And when he muses on the Jesus thing, it’s delightful. So is his Star Wars sequence. And it’s not just voices he does. His physical humour comes to the fore with a walking drunk routine.

One key to what makes his routine (if that’s the word) work is that his skills get used for something way beyond showing off. It’s not demanding humour but it’s very infectious.


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