The Secret Policeman's Ball NZ 2015

Comedy Chamber, Town Hall, Auckland Live, Auckland

03/05/2015 - 03/05/2015

NZ International Comedy Festival 2015

Production Details

Laugh yourself silly at one of the best stand-up showcases at the Festival. The Secret Policeman’s Ball brings together some of the best kiwi and international comedy all under one roof and has the added feel good factor of supporting a great cause.

Celebrate freedom of expression, support Amnesty International and laugh ‘til you cry.

All proceeds from this show go directly towards Amnesty International’s work protecting human rights.

Sun 3 May, 7pm

Venues: Comedy Chamber, Auckland


Adults $40.00
Conc. $40.00
Groups 6+ $35.00* service fees may apply


09 970 9700

Theatre , Stand-up comedy , Comedy ,

2 hours

Catering to a homogenous middle class

Review by Dione Joseph 04th May 2015

Amnesty International traditionally always gets a strong turnout for its Secret Policeman’s Ball and this year was no different. Led by the incorrigible Vaughan King the night promised to deliver laughs with a stellar line-up of talent including Terry Williams, Tarun Mohanbhai, Tom Binns as Ivan Brackenbury, Jamie Bowen, Tim Batt, Andrew Clay and Nick Gibb – and for the most part deliver it did.

With an all boys club it would be tempting to assume that the night would ride high on jokes about sex, sex with women, sex with men, genitalia and maybe some more sex but it was actually better than that. Not much better, don’t get too excited, but marginally so.

In fact the one person guilty of indulging in highly graphic phallic descriptions (all in the name of ensuring the image lived long enough to be on snapchat) was MC King himself who soon found out that the crowd warmed up with his personal confessions – from rendezvous with strange couples in hotels to providing detailed knowledge about teabagging. Glorious.  Especially as the jokes about Mandarin becoming the most populous language and petite Asian women didn’t seem to go down too well. 

But not all the lads resorted to the tried and tested. Terry Williams made some interesting (if not highly revelationary) comments about Lance Armstrong and his uncanny appearance to the fallen hero. Addressing the largely Shore based crowd (the assumptions must come from some statistical resource?) he is not unlike a jovial Hughesy on The 7pm Project from across the ditch in Australia and has a charm of his own.

Tarun Mohanbhai, who followed, made it easy to remember his name by explaining its anglicised pronunciation rhymed with Aaron – and the pitfalls of explaining ear rhyme to those who suffer from dyslexia. Initially relying on stereotypical ‘Indian’ jokes because an unwritten law of comedy seems to be ‘if you have a culture you must mock it’, Mohanbai’s opening remarks seemed average at best – however, as soon as he started to move outside the box and the delights of Tinder for Indians he was on fire with some smart and savvy commentary. He did take a tad too long because Tom Binns rushed on stage without the privilege of having King introduce him but it was just as well; because as Ivan Brackenbury, the radio host spinning tunes for the local hospital inmates, this man was the star of the night.

If you haven’t seen Binns before, go see his show – mixing comedy and music is certainly becoming a hallmark on the circuit but somehow the chubby awkward music host that hails from the UK manages to match the highest level of political incorrectness with some of the best musical choices.  Highly visual and imaginative pairings (including more than one song by Rod Stewart) he offers a distinctive glimpse into the world of dialysis, gender realignment and rectal dysfunction – to name few. A highlight of the evening and offering the smartest set of the night Binns closed the opening half to unrestrained applause.

Following the first three acts (who were, on the whole, remarkably good) would have been hard for most comedians but the next four certainly gave it their best. Jamie Bowen with his androgynous name and deeply uninhibited excavation into the highs and lows of one’s testes got plenty of laughs and so did Andrew Clay. The latter with his cheery, if admittedly monocultural, view of New Zealand waxed eloquent on the generic stereotypes of Kiwis as the relatively unruffled birds of a collective feather and his comments, while not necessarily incisive, were suitably sharp. Occasionally.

Not so for Tim Batt and Nick Gibb, unfortunately both of whom seemed to flounder excessively in lukewarmish delivery and content. Gibb focused on sharing his ‘new material’ by going back in time and the staid jokes got old very quickly. Batt on the other hand promised to end the night on a high with some racy material but seemed to have got the notion mixed up with racist. Making comments on religion (especially with little knowledge or exposure) came across rather tasteless and arrogant. Further he added a massive dollop of ignorance to his pile of unremarkable comments as he seemed to forget that Christianity is not a separate religion for Catholics or Seventh-Day Adventists.

Some days Wikipedia just isn’t your friend. Neither is bigotry. 

Overall, a good night though it seemed that the comedians were prepped for an exclusively white audience (don’t comics think people from South Auckland have the wheels to get into town on a Sunday night?) and the number of comments that were catered to a homogenous middle class group of people (no not everybody was from Takapuna) was startlingly disappointing . Next year let’s hope Amnesty reflects its commitment to its vision by showcasing more comedians who have unadulterated talent rather than those who simply cater to satisfying the egos of a few who believe money alone can make a difference. 


Dione Joseph May 5th, 2015

Hi Tim, I appreciate the offer but if I can make it to your show I'd be glad to pay my way. Send me a message and I look forward to talking further. Cheers, Dione 

tom Furniss May 5th, 2015

I regret getting into this convo. Nothing to do with me.

I don't envy anyone's position as a reviewer, as I'm sure they have a similar feeling towards performers. Both positions are very hard, and we put ourselves in the eye of judgement continually. Kudos to all who do so.

This little world is too small to judge to harshly or unfairly though I guess, and in hindsight my previous comments did this. They came from retaliation, not thought. 

Everyone, as you were, have a good day. Much love, and much respect. 

Tim Batt May 5th, 2015

Robbie: It's "public" in FB privacy terminology, yes. But it's not public in the common lexicon, as in a public website. You have to go searching for me and my posts specifically. And I'm confident Tom has the personal resources to make that decision about his shows.

Robbie Ellis May 5th, 2015

When Comedy Fest comes round every year, Editor/John has a hell of a time finding enough reviewers in two cities who are a) versed in stand-up comedy, b) aren't part of the community themselves.

Tom F: it would be a shame if you declined to allocate tickets to Theatreview in future based on this one review - there are some wonderfully astute writers on here who may well make it to your show.

Tim B: your Facebook post is literally Public.

Tim Batt May 5th, 2015

Very much appreciate your comments and particularly your apology for the error, Dione. To be clear, I didn't call you out in 'public' I did it on my personal Facebook page after I'd read someone call me a bigot and misatribute a bit. I know the distinction between personal FB and public is up for debate but my feeling is my personal account isn't a public comment. Overly aggressive response? Probably was. I must say I was a little taken aback by the Editor's contribution to this discussion (one I didn't want to air in public, hence the post on my own page) but let me direct my comments to you directly:

Good on you. Reviewing ain't easy, we can disagree on stuff, comedy IS subjective, we all make mistakes, thank you for owning them. Apologies for causing a probably disproportionate amount of grief and if you have any desire to see my show, I'd be happy to chuck you on the door.

Best regards.


Dione Joseph May 5th, 2015

Hi everyone. I’m not going to respond to every comment that has been made about ‘this review’ and ‘this reviewer’ but I would like to say a couple of things. Yes, I got the sets mixed up. Yes, it was factual error. Yes, Nick Gibb doesn’t have an ‘s’ at the end of his name. For that, yes, I apologize. But surely a private message from Tim to myself pointing out the error would have rectified the mistake immediately? The liberty was taken to tag me in a public post (following which I alerted John immediately about the errors) but perhaps this whole exchange could have perhaps been dealt with in a different way? It has been less than 24 hours since the post went live and the mistake has been corrected  - though I acknowledge that yes, audiences who read the review may have been mislead because of the mix up. Again, for that factual inaccuracy I apologize. Secondly, I don’t profess to be an expert on comedy – it’s subjective, personal and everybody is entitled to their opinion. But I stand by my opinions. If you were there on the night and had a different take – excellent, let’s sit down and have a chat about it, the more diversity of perspectives the better, right? Because I was there and am responding to the night as I experienced it. Furthermore, if you think I really didn’t appreciate your work Tim and missed the boat completely then let’s sit down and talk about it. I’m open to my work being criticized, I’m open to having bigger conversations about reviewing and criticism, if you see me come say hi (or not) and let’s talk about it. Who knows I might get along to your full length show and might love it – I don’t know. And finally, I’ve been back in NZ for nine months, I don’t know everyone in the theatre community but I’d like to use this conversation, since it certainly seems to have got people talking, to extend an invitation to the community as a whole:  If you want to talk about my work (as opposed to making comments or assumptions about me) send me an email, a FB message or whatever else you think appropriate to make personal contact. If you see me at a show come talk. At the end of the day Tim will keep doing comedy I’ll keep reviewing – and maybe we can get to a point where we can engage in face-to-face healthy dialogue? Maybe. But just so you know the invitation is open. Let’s talk. Look forward to hearing from you all.

Nick Fone May 5th, 2015

I just donated $3 as per the link on your sidebar.

Please buy Dione a pen.





Susan Traherne May 5th, 2015

I have no doubt that Dione is a conscientious reviewer, but there are so many grammatical and syntax errors that an editor should have picked up before publication.


You admit that it's an enormous and onerous task to cover the entire Comedy Festival, but as Editor, shouldn't you still be editing? Especially in quick turnaround pieces at a high volume time where errors are more likely to be made?

Tim Batt May 5th, 2015

EDIT: Spelling (lol, meta)

Ugh. Well done person I assume is John, you've lured me from out of the woodwork.

I appreciate the role that Theatreview has in NZ's arts community and appreciate it's not an easy task. That being said, when you've got CNZ funding you've got to be answerable to basic standards. My largest concern is people reading reviews and attributing a comedian's very different style to the wrong performer because of reviewer error. If this happens, the reviewer through their error has negatively effected two comedians' careers. I have chosen to deliver certain risqué or challenging material because I am prepared to wear the consequences of it and owning what I say. Nick Gibb has not made the decision to deliver that same material. His and my sets that evening could barely be more different and it's a worry that punters, as a result of reading this review could get our very different styles confused. Typos are one thing, getting several comics names wrong several times is quite another.
Whilst I stand by my other points, including that this reviewer did not accurately reflect the mood of the room, it wasn't filmed so I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. Which is fine.

Lastly, your petulant personal attack and threat of not covering the Comedy Festival any more because (ironically) I critiqued your website's work is embarrassing. I know you guys get a lot of flack because artists are sensitive about their work (myself included) but what I was most riled about were basic factual errors. Own your responsibilities and be a professional. Or at the very least, an adult.

tom Furniss May 5th, 2015

Also this one. Thanks

Editor May 5th, 2015

Dione Joseph is a hard working and conscientious reviewer who is only too happy to have her errors of fact corrected. It is an enormous, onerous and often thankless task to attempt comprehensive coverage of the Comedy Festival. Maybe it will suit all concerned better if Theatreview doesn't attempt it in future.

David Cormack May 5th, 2015

I do find it fascinating that those who have no compunction in critiquing the world and make a career of it in stand-up turn out to be so sentitive and savage when they in turn are critiqued.

Didn't you get a second review done of your own show when the first review didn't meet your standards?

Tom Furniss May 5th, 2015

I'm removing my comment. Thanks

Matt Baker May 5th, 2015

John, it makes my bile rise when you say that “those who have no compunction in critiquing the world and make a career of it in stand-up turn out to be so sentitive and savage when they in turn are critiqued”, when Tim has written that “Reviews are bloody useful things when they're done right and I've had some rightfully slam me last year and this year. Those reviews were dead on and astute. I've taken such useful things away from these negative reviews and they've really helped me as a performer.”

This is clearly about the abilities (or lack thereof) of a specific reviewer – and it’s not the first to come out about this particular reviewer or even this particular review.

Susan Traherne May 5th, 2015

I feel like Tim's problem is less with being critiqued, in fact I'm sure that he probably appreciates it, but with being critiqued poorly by an uninformed reviewer.

Beyond that, this is just a poorly written (and sub-edited) review. It slips into passive voice far too much, and every noun or verb is given its very own unnecessary adjective or adverb. Words are thrown in that either make no sense (lukewarmish) or are not words (revelationary). There are bizarre comments that don't comment on the show and odd assumptions made about the audience (don't comics think people from South Auckland have the wheels to get into town on a Sunday night?)

Editor May 5th, 2015

Spellings and attributions corrected - thank you for the heads-up. The reviewer went to some efforts to work out who was who but there was no programme and staff at the venue were unable to help so she tried to align them via the Comedy Festival website. We work in good faith as best we can under the circumstances. I do find it fascinating that those who have no compunction in critiquing the world and make a career of it in stand-up turn out to be so sentitive and savage when they in turn are critiqued.

Matt Baker May 5th, 2015

I've been given licence to post this as the author does not have, or wish to have, a Theatreview account:

From Tim Batt:

"WARNING: RANT - Theatreview, where do you find these people? Dione Joseph

1) If you're going to write a review, please for the love of God make sure you get the names right. And I'm not talking about spelling (which you also screwed up, it's Nick Gibb, not Gibbs) - I mean please ATTRIBUTE THE RIGHT COMEDIAN TO THE RIGHT SET. I did the set with religion, Nick performed the 'new material' set.

2) I couldn't possibly disagree with you more about the two of us 'floundering'. I very rarely say I've done a good job on stage, but both Nick and I smashed that gig. The crowd was 100% with us. If you weren't, that's fine. Write that. Don't write we lost the room. We didn't.

3) If you want to assume I have no knowledge or exposure to religion, then you're allowed as a reviewer to write that but can you please own that assumption YOU'VE made.

4) Lastly, calling me (well, Nick but you get the point) a bigot is a nice, easy and reductive label to attach to a set of my jokes you've decontextualised but I would really warn you against using that word on the set I performed cause you're going to run out of language to attribute to comics who are actually bigoted very quickly.

Reviews are bloody useful things when they're done right and I've had some rightfully slam me last year and this year. Those reviews were dead on and astute. I've taken such useful things away from these negative reviews and they've really helped me as a performer.

THIS REVIEW IS BAD AT BEING A REVIEW. The reviewer has screwed up at such a basic level and you're actually harming innocent bystanders by not even accurately attributing material to the right performer. And for God's sake, Nick Gibb has a Billy T. Screwing up his name several times in one piece speaks volumes about the caliber of people Theatreview: The New Zealand Performing Arts Review & Directory are sending to some shows. With free tickets come a modicum of responsibility."

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