SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

24/04/2014 - 24/04/2014

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

Production Details


A swag of fresh faces join a few favourites from last year for one of the most eagerly awaited shows in the annual NZ International Comedy Festival featuring nine international comedians, providing a taste of things to come, in a 2 hour+ showcase. 

Fresh faces in the ‘5 Star’ in 2014 include: 

John Robins (England) – A veteran of 5 Edinburgh Fringe fests – “One of the most naturally gifted comedians I’ve seen” – Daily Telegraph UK

John Gordillo (England) – ‘One of comedy’s great thinkers.  Heartfelt, intellectual or angry, he’s dynamite!’ THE TIMES

Michael Legge (Ireland) – “This is vitriolic observational stand-up at its finest …The language is perfectly judged, with some beautifully splenetic turns of phrase. And the effect of all this impassioned negativity is, ironically, quite joyous”

Sara Pascoe (England) – “Pascoe’s lively mind teases out big questions with intelligence, silliness and self-deprecation to make a near-perfect show” The Guardian UK

Tim FitzHigham (England) – “Tim FitzHigham is unhinged. He is completely without hinges.” Eddie Izzard

Carl Donnelly (England) – 2013 Edinburgh Comedy Award – ‘Best Show’ Nominee

They will be joined on stage at the 5 Star by the return of some of the headliners from the 2013 Festival including James Acaster, Markus Birdman and the MC for the show, Stuart Goldsmith, all from the UK.

All these acts will be appearing in a variety of shows throughout the festival including their own award winning solo shows but the ‘5 Star Comedy Preview’ is a rare opportunity to see them altogether on the same stage.

The 5 Star Comedy Preview 2014 
Dates:  Wed 23 April – 8pm
Venue:  SKYCITY Theatre, Auckland City
Tickets:  Adults $49.50, Conc. $45.50
Bookings:  0800Ticketek or

Theatre , Stand-up comedy ,

Varied, short and punchy

Review by Andy Manning 24th Apr 2014

The stars are out tonight as I step into the gaudily lit SkyCity Theatre to have a peek at the upcoming international acts in The 5 Star Comedy Preview 2014

However, ’tis not the stars of Hollywood that pack out the 700 seat theatre; no brash Americans tread the boards with their smutty puns and outlandish laughs. No, tonight, old chaps, is a night of Britannia. I find this out immediately as I sit down and am thrust into introduction with my neighbour, Pam from Winchester, who is here to “see some bloody British humour”.

Pam is not to be disappointed. With the exception of Michael Legge (Ireland), the rest of the lineup hail from England, all love New Zealand and all hate their home towns. The show provides a tasty tidbit of nine of the international acts in the 2014 NZ International Comedy Festival.  

Host Stuart Goldsmith kicks off affairs with somewhat smarmy, but very endearing, audience gags and ice-breakers, dealing well with what is initially a somewhat cold crowd. With a series of “Give me a yell if you’re from (insert hometown here)” shout-outs – my Auckland neighbour Chris on one side and my equally vocal new friend Pam on the other – he finds a way to bring the life out of the crowd. He follows with a satire of Warwickshire, his own hometown. I turn to Pam; she laughs.  He asks for a comparative place in New Zealand. “Hamilton” is the almost unanimous response. I turn to Chris. He laughs. I am starting to see how this works.

Chris Martin opens the sets, with an internet-generation pastiche on his own insecurities, from kissing his first, and current, girlfriend to the amount of time he spends on Yahoo Answers. He tells us he loves New Zealand (audience applause), and keeps us entertained through his set.

John Gordillo follows with a complaint aimed at the Kiwi audience’s attitude to live comedy, drawing great laughs with his satire. Gordillo, performing with a ‘Madonna-mic’, fills almost his entire set with an anecdote on his Spanish father and, with much arm-flapping, charms the crowd. He finds a sense of ease as he gets further into his set, and winds it up all too soon.

Sara Pascoe is next, with a slightly less successful set on the audience decibel-meter. She gets her kicks, as those before her, by her comparison of London life and Kiwi life, rating ours far above hers (audience cheers). Not to be outdone, Carl Donnelly wraps up the first half in superb style, riffing with ease and charm on everything from women’s rights to public nudity. Carl’s set is a real treat, not to be missed in the coming weeks.

The second half continues with its colonial charge, led by Tim FitzHigham’s gripes about having to fill in customs forms for a country he technically owns, and whilst noting that NZ is beautiful (audience hoorahs) he asks,“Why do you keep it all the way out here?” The Irishman Michael Legge steps up to bat, with plenty more where that came from, promising to “seduce us” with his witticisms from London, his now home town, and promises “we will be going home together tonight!” 

John Robbins riffs on gout and middle-age, drawing laughs from the ‘Sky City Demographic’, before handing over to the inimitable Marcus Birdman who jokes bawdily about British alcoholism and his life in Lewisham, the “worst place on earth”. He is quick to compare it to Hamilton. I turn to Pam. She laughs. I turn to Chris. He laughs. This guy is good. Marcus aims his unashamedly crude gags toward a teenaged boy he identifies in the front row, informing him on the perils of women and liquor. He ties up the night superbly, and is an exciting and involving act to see.

The night is successful in showcasing and promoting the international talent. Goldsmith ties the show together effortlessly, and all the acts are varied, short and punchy. Standouts are Goldsmith himself, Donnelly and Birdman. If anything, the show drags – perhaps eight acts is over-ambitious; I am satisfied but not hungry for much more. I leave feeling very glad I don’t live in Lewisham, great friends with Pam, and – ever so Britishly – with my vocabulary three words richer: pejorative, voluble and futtocks.


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