BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

09/05/2017 - 13/05/2017

Suter Theatre, Nelson

21/10/2017 - 22/10/2017

NZ International Comedy Festival 2017


Production Details

For the first time ever, White Man Behind A Desk, described by the Sunday Star Times as the ‘kiwi John Oliver’ (a phrase he will never shake for the rest of his life) is performing live! Leaving the safety of TVNZ OnDemand and YouTube, Robbie will rant, frolic, sing, dance, and welcome some of the big names in politics for a variety show of epic proportions.

Frankly, it’s your duty as a citizen of Aotearoa to be there, ready to laugh at the unending circus of absurdity that is New Zealand.

Facebook – White Man Behind A Desk
Twitter – @ManWithDesk 

The Studio at BATS Theatre 
Tue 9 – Sat 13 May 2017
Full Price: $20 | Concession: $15
Group 6+: $14 | Cheap Wednesday: $14
*service fee may apply
Wheelchair accessible on request
Occasional bad language  

“Top-drawer brilliance… superbly subversive.” THEATREVIEW

“It is the kind of political satire we desperately need and I was happy to have the piss taken out of me!” GRANT ROBERTSON, LABOUR MP FOR WELLINGTON CENTRAL



MP positions liable to change post September 23 election

WINNER – Best Newcomer Wellington, 2017 New Zealand International Comedy Festival

Nelson Arts Festival 2017
Sat 21 & Sun 22 Oct, 8pm
70 mins, no interval
FULL $39 | UNDER 19 $25
SENIOR $35 | GROUP OF 6+ $35pp
(Group bookings only available at Theatre Royal Nelson) 
Book Now! 

Sat 21 Oct – Robbie’s guest is Mike Ward, ex Nelson City Councillor, former Green Party MP, co-leader of Values Party and well-known local artist

Sun 22 Oct – Robbie’s guest is Sir Geoffrey Palmer, ex Prime Minister and constitutional expert, something that may be desperately needed in the coming months

Theatre , Solo , Political satire , Comedy ,

1 hr

One white man worth watching

Review by Daniel Allan 22nd Oct 2017

Robbie Nicol and his brand of youthful and energetic satire commentary made it onto the Nelson stage this week in the Nelson Arts Festival show White Man Behind a Desk: Live. Nicol has been one of NZ’s most successful YouTubers over the last couple of years. His down-home, bite-sized monologues made a deserved splash on Facebook feeds in election year. WMBAD: Live is a natural extension of this success, no doubt trying to cash in the same way that musicians increasingly rely on live gigs to drive up awareness and sales.

The show is set-up as if live recording of the web series is underway. Between some of his web-length speeches and an interview with a local guest – on this night the incredibly sporting Mike Ward – there is much stage business between Nicol, largely mute cameraman Mitchell, and co-writer Finnius Teppett, who plays a super laconic filming director.

I don’t quite buy the live recording delivery device. Its artificial, disorganised and slap-sticky mode is at odds with the clever and non-fictional speech material. Granted, there are some lovely moments of self-effacement, and a quality piece of cold script reading from some excellent audience volunteers, but there are also distinct lulls of energy, especially during the tired gag where the team await the arrival of a guest who will never arrive. The show is a Yummy Gummy Drops of comedy however, and it is worth wading through the bubble-gum flavoured delivery device so that you can savour the sweet jubes it contains.

I think the show creators are trying to have a buck each way here, but I’d prefer they’d back their satire material. I’d have quite happily listened to a set of Nicol’s pithy monologues, coupled with a more serious approach to his interview, as an entire show in its own right.

Taking aim at Jonathan Coleman in his first monologue about Mental Health, Nicol scores hits initially, but also takes stock of some rather sobering personal stories regarding access to help, and statistics on suicide. His second monologue, supposedly written by the cameraman, is ostensibly about Nazis. “Is it pro, or anti?” gulps Nicol, as he uplifts the script. It starts off explaining the rise of the Alt-Right, but deviates into a general appeal to the patriarchy to recognise the shifting power balance in the world and try to go gently into the age of equality. It’s impressive, thoughtful, but also – unusually for satire – has one eye on the future. Clearly a student of the game, Nicol, in bookends to the show, even manages to satirise satire itself.

As an over-30, like most of the appreciative crowd, my first reaction is to say “Get this guy his own TV show,” but I forget that the internet is slowly but surely devouring the television industry, and Nicol is clearly doing fine without a tele gig, thank you very much. I’ve no doubt that his future is bright in whatever manifestation he ends up in front of people.

He is smart, energetic and lovable and scores massive points over his political targets through being researched, polished, paced-up, empathetic and on point. He does it all while being less cloying than John Campbell, less shouty than John Oliver and even cuter than Rove McManus. It’s an impossibly winning combination. This is one white man worth watching.


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Top-drawer brilliance deserves bigger audience

Review by John Smythe 10th May 2017

White Man Behind a Desk: Live! is superbly subversive. Masquerading as a rather bumbling live recording session with various attendant stuff-ups and ‘non-performance’ moments, it nevertheless delivers stabs of potent satire amid the wider comedy set-up.

Those fully familiar with Robbie Nicol’s spots on TVNZ OnDemand and YouTube – he is rightly hailed as the ‘Kiwi John Oliver’ – will welcome live reruns of at least two of his incisive rants, apparently randomly selected from a list of 10. Those who haven’t been paying attention until now may well (as I was on my first encounter) be thrilled to discover such a sharp mind is out there skewering the corrupt logic, inhumanity and absurdities rife in our political regimes.

While Nichol’s hyper-dynamic on-camera style could not be more different than that of the late lamented John Clarke, he hits his targets just as well. And if we had a true Public Broadcast TV station, he too would be a great drawcard on free-to-air prime time TV.

Right from the start we’re aware of an issue: an expected guest has not shown up. But there is a political celebrity in the audience: is he a fan or will he be part of the show? As a dressing gown-clad Robbie skulks nervously by a window, ‘First AD’ Finnius Teppett takes charge while Videographer Mitchell Botting and Technical Operator Isabella Grigg-Eyley inconspicuously stand by.

Post-its adorn a white board headlined ‘Unresolved Issues’ and a large bin is labelled ‘Resolved’ and thus the show’s structure is signalled. A ‘pre-recorded live’ song – ‘The World Has Become a Circus’ – kicks things off, we are treated/ subjected to the usual ‘studio audience’ pep-talk and a suddenly lively Robbie resumes the song live before our very receptive eyes, exhorting us to “join a bubble” … And what a wondrous list of rhymes it elicits!

An audience ‘ask for’ produces a number that in turn gives us a live rendition of the White Man Behind A Desk’s monologue on Tax, wherein metaphorical mugs and a flatmate named David are ingeniously employed to explain the insane inequity of the property investment loophole.

What’s more, despite delivering his material at breakneck speed, Robbie’s diction, breath control and cadence renders it all crystal clear – a blessing for all those having trouble with understanding TV ‘talents’ these days.

The Member for Wellington Central and the NZ Labour Party’s spokesperson on finance, Grant Robertson, is indeed Robbie’s guest. He accommodates the ignominies of supposedly incompetent preparation for his inclusion, and the surprising tasks required of him, in excellent good humour, revealing more about his qualities as a good human being than any spin doctored media profile could. He is tested in multiple ways and passed with flying rainbow colours – albeit drawn in black and white. (Full disclosure: Grant Robertson is standing in my electorate has my whole-hearted support.)

The second WMBaD monologue is entitled ‘Nazis’ and proves to be an unnerving revelation of how the insidious neo-Nazi diaspora operates, especially in cyberspace. I assume these topics are indeed randomly selected so there is a reasonable chance future audiences will be treated to others.

The call for the eminent if reclusive economist Bruce John Ross to make himself known goes unheeded and the organisers’ worst fears are realised: he hasn’t turned up and may still be cycling in from the Kapiti Coast. (Maybe he’ll make it tonight.)

Strategies employed to plug the gap include conscription of an audience member then another, to such good comic effect, thanks to their playing it straight, that the obviously cogent questions and answers, including tantalising mentions of French economist Thomas Picketty, become overwhelmed – which I guess is the point.

All up White Man Behind a Desk: Live! is brilliant: a top-drawer addition to the comedy festival.  I would urge you all to book now and book often, given the changing nature of each iteration, but I’m told it is booked out (although there were a couple of seats empty last night). Which raises the question of why it is crammed into the tiny BATS Studio space. Let’s hope it scores a return season before the September elections!


John Smythe May 10th, 2017

Goddammit I knew that - embarrassed - and rectified. Thanks Stella.

Stella Reid May 10th, 2017

Hey John! Robbie spells his name Nicol :-) High hopes Bruce John Ross will turn up tonight

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