THE BIG SHOW 2014: an International Comedy Showcase

Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland

25/04/2014 - 26/04/2014

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

29/04/2014 - 03/05/2014

Comedy Chamber, Town Hall, Auckland Live, Auckland

05/05/2014 - 17/05/2014

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

Production Details



A FESTIVAL FAVOURITE JUST GOT BIGGER!  

Since 2005, THE BIG SHOW has become one of the most popular shows in the annual festival and, at the 2014 NZ International Comedy Festival, it is promising a line-up of 5 world class comedians each night in a 2 hour show. In previous years audiences at THE BIG SHOW have been introduced local audiences to world class comedians such as Andy Parsons, Stephen K Amos, Mark Watson, Phil Nichol, Jason Cook, Neil Delamere, Carey Marx, Terry Alderton, Milton Jones and many more.

In 2014 The Big Show is going to be even bigger with additional dates and comedians scheduled for the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna on Fri 25th and Sat 26th of April as well as Auckland’s Comedy Chamber 5th – 17th May and providing a new lease of laughs for the re-launched Hannah Playhouse in Wellington from 29th Apr until 3rd May. The 2014 line-up will be headed by:

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” Chortle.co.uk

Plus guest appearances by… 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

They will be joined by festival favourite CAREY MARX (England) at the Bruce Mason Centre only.

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 comedyfestival.co.nz

The Big Show 2014 – On The Shore  
Dates: Fri 25 & Sat 26 April, 8pm
Venue: The Bruce Mason Centre, Hustmere Rd, Takapuna
Tickets: $44.50 – $48.50
Bookings: 09 970 9700 // ticketmaster.co.nz

The Big Show 2014 – Wellington  
Dates: Tue 29 April – Sat 3 May, 8.30pm
Venue: Hannah Playhouse, 12 Cambridge Tce
Tickets: $38.50 – $45
Bookings: 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) // ticketek.co.nz

The Big Show 2014 – Auckland City  
Dates: Mon 5 – Sat 10 May & Mon 12 – Sat 17 May, 8.45pm
Venue: The Comedy Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, 303 Queen St
Tickets: $38.50 – $48.50
Bookings: 09 970 9700 // ticketmaster.co.nz



Theatre , Stand-up comedy ,


Alternative UK comics meet mainstream audience

Review by Robbie Nicol 06th May 2014

John Gordillo, the first act of the night, begins his set with a quick survey of the audience. “How many people,” he asks, “came to this show to see one comic in particular?” Two people put up their hand – roughly one percent of the crowd. International comics keep calling New Zealand audiences “nice” and “polite”, and it’s tempting to think that we just don’t have much of a sense of humour. But, of course, we do.

The trouble is that people who go to a comedy event like The Big Show are just looking for a good night out. They haven’t necessarily seen that much UK comedy, or if they have, they’ve only seen the big names. This is not the audience’s fault, but the result is a set of comics from the UK’s more alternative comedy circuit, performing to what is very distinctly not an alternative comedy crowd. 

It doesn’t help that the Town Hall’s Comedy Chamber is, as Michael Legge describes it, “basically a school hall.” Those of us down the back who laugh loudly feel a very long way from the action on stage. 

Michael Legge hosts the show with the same skill with which he hosted the Classic LATE & LIVE (a similar show in a more appropriate venue, if you would like to check out the review). He is even better tonight, with snappier delivery and an angrier demeanour.

John Gordillo has worked as a director of stand-up comedy, and it is little surprise that his stand-up is primarily about stand-up. Doing comedy about comedy at the start of a comedy show does make it slightly harder for the comedians that follow him, but his insights into the differences between a theatre audience and a comedy audience are clever. While his closing bit is paced a little too slowly, allowing the stretches between punchlines to be punctuated with heckles, Gordillo handles them well and receives the round of applause he insists all comics live for.

Sarah Pascoe, who follows Gordillo, is very funny indeed. Her friendly delivery is tinged with a slight creepiness that sneaks in around the edges and guarantees a second laugh. Yes, there is something obviously off-putting about pretending your boyfriend’s pot-belly is actually your unborn child, but Pascoe’s immediate likability tricks you into not noticing how deranged that is, even if just for a moment.

Pascoe has been very successful back in the UK, appearing on numerous panel shows and even the infamous Live at the Apollo. But do not think this makes her too mainstream to be clever. Pascoe’s comedy comes with well-considered opinions smuggled inside hilarious self-deprecation. You must not miss Sarah Pascoe versus the Truth, on at the Vault at Q Theatre from the 13th to the 17th of May.

John Robins impresses by performing an entirely different set than the one he presented at Classic LATE & LIVE. (That review can be found here.) His opening local patter has expanded considerably from when I saw him a week ago, and he is willing to perform more outrageously – as dictated by an enormous stage that makes comedians look like dust mites trapped inside the theatre curtain.

I initially thought that Tim Fitzhigham cut his performance short because of the audience, who, he claimed at one point, “needed a defibrillator”. Apparently, however, his set was equally short when he performed it in Wellington. He is a success with the crowd at the start of his act, making light of New Zealand’s relaxed attitude in response to potential terrorism, and his manic energy fills the stage admirably.  

He asks us if we’ve ever bet on anything more interesting than horses, and his manic energy is greeted by a long silence. Someone eventually tells him (presumably from the northern hemisphere) that they bet on whether there would be snow at Christmas, and he quickly moves on to a more interesting answer he one received from an Edinburgh audience. The comics succeed best when the crowd isn’t given time to over-think how they should be reacting. All of the comics fall flat when they let the crowd rest in their uncertain and judgmental silences.

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Five talented Brits

Review by Simon Howard 30th Apr 2014

Bringing together five British comedians whom many New Zealanders won’t have heard of, but who boast impressive credentials back in the UK, ensures an opening night crowd at the Hannah Playhouse which was abuzz with both curiosity and excitement.

Our MC for the night is Michael Legge, an amiable Northern Irish comedian who instantly comes out and develops a rapport with two members of his front row, ‘Noel’ and ‘Brendan’. It is a popular stock opener which yields mixed results, with an unwillingness at first from the ‘victims’ leading to better comic material as the show progresses and the two audience members grow accustomed to their roles.

Whilst Legge is not as slick as the previous year’s MC, Stuart Goldsmith, when he delves into his own material he has the audience in stitches. A rant about the television show Mrs Brown’s Boys is a particular highlight of the night. Whilst the audience for the opening night is mostly reserved, he is more than capable at ensuring all the comedians in the line-up receive a rapturous applause when they take to the stage.

John Gordillo is up first to take us on a journey mainly focussing on the de-construction of the arts and stand-up comedy in general. The tone and nature of this early segment of his material seems to polarise some members of the audience and leads to a fairly muted response. On the other hand, his dissection of Grand Canyon reviews on TripAdvisor draws much laughter and amusement. It is fascinating and refreshing to see a comedian be so honest about his profession on stage, and the intelligence of his comparison of stand-up comedy to theatre strikes a real chord. The passion and enjoyment he appears to get out of his set rubs off on this reviewer, but perhaps would have engaged the audience more had he been on in the latter half of the show, when the audience became more responsive.

Sara Pascoe effortlessly blends observations from her short time in New Zealand with impressive material crafted from subjects such as her current relationship and the sexual teachings of her Catholic mother whilst growing up. She delivers her set in a way which makes it feel like she could be a friend of anybody in the audience, with relatable tales of jealousy seemingly coming from a very real place. The tangents Pascoe takes the audience to never cease to amaze, especially when cleverly comparing her relationship style to that of the former Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il. Sharp, witty and genuine, the audience receives her warmly and her set seems to fly by in no time. She is definitely a comedian to look out for in the next few years.  

John Robins leads us into the second half of the show with a confident and energetic set packed with compelling and funny observations. His early material sets the tone well, where he talks about the quirks of adolescence, a time when you are old enough to have access to the adult world, but don’t quite know what to do with it. He is current, engaging and reminds me in a way of Russell Howard, a hugely successful British comedian who also comes from Bristol. Robins’ likeability rubs off on the crowd, who find his observations about the physical trials and tribulations of turning thirty extremely amusing. He is a seriously funny guy who delivers several big laughs. 

Tim Fitzhigham rounds the show off by coming straight across from his own solo show ‘The Gambler’ to deliver a fairly short set about gambling and its quirky history. After an early spell of audience interaction he is able to get the audience laughing very quickly. He is bright, to the point and extremely intelligent in his approach, impressing with the level of research he has done into the subject matter of his performance. Whilst it would have been nice to have seen a longer set, he certainly left many members of the audience checking their diaries to see if they could make it along to his solo show later in the week. 

Overall, the Big Show delivers five capable and talented British comedians, with something for the majority of comedy-lovers to enjoy. The highlights were undoubtedly Sara Pascoe and John Robins, two comedians who deliver relevant and relatable sets which make them stand out from their contemporaries. Despite being the two youngest comedians on the bill, they both present their material in a slick and intellectual manner which suggests bright futures for both. An ideal show for the opening week of the festival. 

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Something for most comic tastes

Review by Gabrielle Beran 26th Apr 2014

The Bruce Mason Centre is disappointingly and noticeably half-full for this event which sees six British comedians (let us face it, they are all English except for Michael Legge) show us a little of what they have to offer in the coming weeks. 

MC for the evening, Tim FitzHigham, is the right man for the job. Spot on with his energetic introduction and short interlude, he is a low-stress, easy to watch comic with a real sense of audience and timing. His audience interaction is seamless and a highlight is FitzHigham calling an audience member’s (potentially fake) girlfriend and leaving a heartfelt yet hilarious voicemail for her. Lucky girl. 

John Robins’ set is first out of the wings and despite some initial surprise with his audience interaction not quite going to plan, we are soon away laughing at his miseries. Robins’, like Sarah Pascoe who follows him, plays his comedy at a nice intellectual level: he is well read and manages to use that intelligence for greater comedic effect. Furthermore, any thirty-year-old male who has had gout is going to make comedy gold.

Pascoe immediately makes you want to be her friend, and not just because she seems super nice, but because she is just as weird as everyone else. It is a tight set with a slick delivery and jokes that cover the gamut of personal and global settings – from her birth to Jesus and back again via her sexual frustration and dangerous suburb. She is a real highlight of the line-up and it is great to see that she will be back at the Bruce Mason next week. 

Northern Irishman Michael Legge oscillates between some alarming aggression and funny anecdotal misadventures. This is a man dealing with Mrs Brown’s Boys and an incredibly perky, fit American wife. Some will be able to relate.

If it is about quality, not quantity then Carl Donnelly, with his leopard boots and eyelinered face, takes the cake. While he may win the prize for longest set up in history, he makes the audience shake uncontrollably with laughter at the few jokes in his set. This reviewer is still laughing about them now, they are just that good. Donnelly really looks like he is having a great time onstage, which is always a pleasure to watch. This is someone to track down and see solo.

When the next comedian wanders on to the stage squinting and carrying a beer, I am genuinely wondering if is he drunk. Or does Carey Marx always slur, make inappropriate paedophilia ‘jokes’ and give his audiences far too much detail about his sex life?  

To end the evening, John Gordillo gives us wonderfully funny impressions of his Spanish father and ponders the hilarity of watching comedy as an art form. His explanations of his family situation are unnecessary and too long but he does get some good, albeit at times predictable, mileage out of them. It is as though he is the moral lesson at the end of the story, teaching the audience about what they have seen. 

The Big Show on the Shore has something for most comic tastes and is a good introduction to the weeks ahead. Before long, we are released into the night to plan who we are going to see again in the coming weeks and giggle about Donnelly’s fart-on-train conundrum.

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