Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

30/04/2013 - 04/05/2013

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details


Ever thought that you had a great idea for a super hero? Maybe fashion sense could be equally powerful as Spidey-sense? Or do you dream of a brave and dashing, square-jawed hero whose power is he always remembers to leave the toilet seat down?

Whatever you want, you’ll get in Comic Heroes – the new show from The Improvisors opening on 30 April at Circa Theatre.

Comic Heroes sees a brand new super hero movie improvised from scratch every night. The audience provides the super-powers and decides the great threat posed to citizens of the Earth – and then leave that for the cast to stitch together.

The audience can make the challenge as big as they like,” says Artistic Director of The Improvisors and wannabe super hero Greg Ellis. “We get the fun of trying to deliver on the audience’s challenge and they get the fun and surprise of watching it unfold.

The recent surge of enormously popular movies based on comic books has spurred The Improvisors to create their own. But onstage; without the special effects… and the toned bodies. “One of our biggest fears is not improvising a story that makes sense or coming up with enough laughs on the spot,” says Ellis. “It’s squeezing into Lycra.

Come see what happens when The Improvisors, using minds much more honed than their bodies, do just that 30 April – 4 May in Comic Heroes.

As part of the 2013 NZ International Comedy Festival

Dates: Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May, 7:30 pm
Venue: Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Tickets:        $15 – $18 (booking fees may apply)
Bookings: 04 801 7992 or

For the sweetest deals and hottest comedy news throughout the Festival head to

2hrs incl. interval

If you like lycra …

Review by John Smythe 01st May 2013

Long form improv is quite a challenge and its one of those things that, like most arts, looks effortless when done well, so it’s easily taken for granted. But there’s not much danger of that in The Improvisors’ opening foray into their new format, Comic Heroes.

Tane Upjohn Beatson tinkers away at his keyboard as we take our seats and Uther Dean looms moon-like in the lighting box, both ready to responsively add value to whatever emerges … And they do.

Kenny King, Ian Harcourt, Pete Doile and Tom McGrath are the performers this opening night. Their initial requests to the audience are for our favourite superhero from childhood, an unlikely place for a superhero’s secret hideout and an everyday activity that could become a super power. We offer Wonder Woman, the Beehive and farting.

Next we are asked for a job no-one really wants to do, a daily routine, an unlikely superhero (did they ask for an animal specifically?), and one of the seven deadly sins. We offer the dishes, brushing teeth, a possum and gluttony with the subsidiary offer of oysters.

As it plays out, doing the dishes, a possum as superhero and gluttony for oysters are all that get picked up. Oh, and in retrospect, the teeth-brushing thing does supply the premise for one of the superheroes.  

If the initial offers are never to be picked up, perhaps this should be made clear so we don’t feel let down when they are not incorporated. Except I’m sure Doile dropped in a fart in the opening scene which was ignored and therefore permanently dropped, which is a shame as super-farts could have been well utilised by his Possum Man. (If this is a new convention in improv, that the players get to pick and choose from offers, it dilutes the challenge, reduces the tension-based excitement of ‘how will they incorporate it?’ and denies us the pleasure of seeing them achieve it.)  

I suspect the ‘job no-one really wants to do’ will always be the set-up for a ‘Cinderella and her two ugly sisters’ opening scene where being subservient to two secret superheroes engenders a desire in the third to be a superhero too.

The trouble is this leads King’s Ring of Confidence Man (the tooth-brushing link?), in his everyday guise as flatmate Dean (why weren’t they in the Beehive?) to be demanding (which is fine) and disagreeable, which looks like ‘blocking’ in improv terms. I do realise it is possible for a character to be disagreeable in the process of an actor accepting an offer but in this case it does seem to put a brake on the fluent evolution of some scenes.

McGrath, as the put-upon John, is exemplary in accepting each offer with alacrity despite his character’s increasing despair – and the pay-off is a build up of urgent energy in his desire to become a superhero too: Super Cleaner!

Doile’s flatmate Richard, aka Possum Man, takes a while to gain traction but he turns out to be compassionate towards John, which is good for the ‘accepting offers’ dynamic. And ‘playing possum’ stakes its claim as a valid super-power in the way it gets utilised.

Harcourt excels as the baddy: a malevolent Dr Gluttony whose passion for oysters leads him to use his genius – and his henchman Oinborg (Doile) – to consign the world to eternal winter so that oyster season will never end. (Bluff Oyster season actually starts on 1 March but in the Bay of Islands it’s 1 June, so fair enough.)    

The good moments are very good but this night seems a bit tentative; a bit risk-averse. And having an interval, which gives the actors time to prepare the second half, robs the show of the essential spontaneity – even if they don’t actually prepare.

If you like lycra, in this case enhancing an eclectic range of body types, then this show is for you. Of course the under-dressing suggests another level of preparation but in this case it can be forgiven – if you like lycra.  

This scenario opening night does lead to a well crafted climax, wherein Sunlight Dishwashing Liquid is employed to vanquish the devilish darkness of winter. My feeling is a song to sum up what we’ve seen would round the show off well … Maybe they’ll consider that in future shows.

This was not The Improvisors at their scintillating best but the format is a good one and there is every reason to believe future offerings will rock.


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