Comedy co-editor Natasha Hoyland recaps the shows she’s seen and what she’s looking forward to in this festival diary for Week 1 of the NZ International Comedy Festival, proudly sponsored by Flick Electric Co.
Hello! It’s me! Natasha Hoyland, one of the editors of The Spinoff’s comedy section. This time each week, I’ll be sharing a diary of all the shows I see during the comedy festival. Here’s a summary of what I’ve gotten up to so far in week one.
Monday 1st May, 2pm
It’s not often that your week starts with some good comedy accompanied by shoving canapés into your mouth because people won’t stop handing them to you. This was the exact atmosphere at The Best Comedy Show On Earth on Sunday night at the SkyCity Theatre. It was sponsored by Best Foods, which explains the large amount of canapés and the many many jars of mayo scattered around the premises. I don’t really know what to expect from this show as the poster has only four acts listed under each date, so there’s an air of mystery about who we’re actually going to see up on stage.
To my surprise, the show kicks off with the wonderful Rhys Nicholson as host, and he makes the night with his quick and snappy humour. He introduces us to a vast range of brilliant comedians including Zoe Lyons, Rhys Mathewson, Mel Bracewell, Dusty Rich, Tony Woods, Alice Snedden and more, some of whom you can still catch the individual shows for – just click on their names above! The Best Comedy Show On Earth is a great show to start or end your week of comedy with – plus it’s ideal if you’re having trouble deciding on a show to go out and see. It’s like a delicious tasting platter; if you really like something, you can buy the full meal. It’s on every Sunday in Auckland during the duration of the festival and has weekly runs in Wellington.
Tuesday 2nd May, 11:59pm
Tonight I saw three shows, luckily in three different rooms, because last year I got quite lightheaded and woozy from sitting in the same very warm room for hours on end watching show after show. The first show led me to the Cellar at Q Theatre, which isn’t even a venue, really – more like someone’s actual garage. That being said, they’ve managed to turn it into a proper performance space and lots of the comedy festival’s up and coming talent perform here.
I saw Brynley Stent at the Cellar, in her show Escape From Gloriavale. Being obsessed and intrigued by the lives of the people that live in Gloriavale, I was hugely excited to see this show. Walking in, you notice that the stage is littered with themed props; being a part-time stage manager myself, seeing all this clutter was anxiety inducing, but of course it’s something the rest of the audience wouldn’t even worry about. There were pumpkins, sheets, costumes, and two sharp wooden posts on either side of the stage. Tim Batt’s voice tells us to shut up and put our phones away before the show starts, a speech I know word for word now that I’ve heard it at least seven times already this week (go to any comedy festival show and you’ll know what I’m referring to).
This show is a real mixed bag in the best way possible. Brynley as Gloriavale escapee Providence Gratitude does a bit of stand up, she sings and dances, and she also takes the audience on a journey through flashbacks, showing us her past and her entire journey from Gloriavale to Auckland. The set is minimal, but Brynley’s use of props is incredible. There’s a lot of handmade aspects which are really well thought out, and she makes other characters out of pumpkins and uses them as puppets. I think Brynley might be some kind of genius. Both her Auckland and Wellington seasons are all sold out, but she’s just added an extra show for this Saturday – so get in quick and you might get lucky!
At 8:15pm, the show concludes and I scramble over to The Basement right next door where I hurriedly go to the bathroom, get some water, and mentally prepare myself for Tessa Waters.
I hadn’t seen Tessa perform before, but all of my friends who have rave about her show. A quote on her poster describes her as ‘Trygve Wakenshaw at a feminist disco’ and that’s enough to sell it for me. I went into this show not really knowing what to expect at all. You know how before you go to a play, you can look it up online and read a bit about it? Or how before you go to a stand up comedian’s show you can watch a clip on Youtube to get an idea of what you’re in for? While you can do that for Tessa Waters, a three minute clip will only give you the very slightest indication of what you’re in for. The rest of it is completely unpredictable – nothing can prepare you.
I hate audience interaction, I hate it it with a passion, as most people do. But Tessa is a delight: she’s fun and she’s warm and she has the entire audience on her side within the first five minutes. The whole room was buzzing with joy. I can’t really describe the show at all, it’s just something you have to experience yourself. At one point she makes the entire audience give birth to babies. It’ll be one of the best 20 or so bucks that you’ll spend this month, so catch her at The Basement for the rest of the week in Auckland and next week in Wellington.
There was a half an hour gap in between Tessa’s show and D.O.C.ing. I lingered in the bar, chatting to a few comedians that happened to pass by. Guy Williams was there, chatting and taking selfies with a hundred people, Nadia Lim was there and I almost cried at the sight of her, and Colin Mathura-Jeffree was there too for some reason. It’s no doubt that The Basement is the place to be during comedy fest, as it tends to be the NZ b-grade celeb hub of choice.
10pm ticked round and we all headed into the main theatre to see D.O.C.ing. There weren’t a lot of us, which was unusual for a Chris Parker and Tom Sainsbury show, but gaging from the laughter and smiles, everyone that was there seemed to love it. D.O.C.ing is a play about a team of Department of Conservation workers heading out to save the last fertile brown spotted kiwi. When their helicopter crashes they’re trapped with no food and paranoia starts to set in.
One thing that the Parker & Sainsbury crew really do well is characters. They create some of the best characters I’ve ever seen on stage and the reason they work as well as they do is that they are so real. You look at these characters and you think “I know someone who is JUST like that”. I think that’s one of the reasons their show last year Camping was such a big hit and why D.O.C.ing should be too. Tom Sainsbury’s character Brogan was so familiar to me, and I spent the whole show trying to pinpoint who exactly he reminded me of. I still haven’t figured it out. My personal favourite is Chris Parker’s character Leighton, a real softy who often feels personally attacked – so perfectly relatable to loads of people, myself included.
It’s a great little play, and I think it’s being a bit overlooked due to the many many things that are on at the moment. Ana Scotney is wonderful as naive helicopter pilot BJ, and Brynley Stent is an incredible team leader as Tonya. Also Chris said to me after the show “I hope we didn’t get any shit on you” which I can’t give you context to because it’s a major spoiler.
D.O.C.ing is on at The Basement until Saturday.
Thursday 4th May, 10:33am
I am dying. I think I have food poisoning, and before your eyes steer in the direction of Best Foods and their delicious canapés, THINK AGAIN. I basically live off a diet of reheated leftover butter chicken so I mean, an early grave is inevitable for me. I didn’t get to any shows last night because my guts have been wrecking havoc, but I had planned to see Nazeem Hussain and The Big Show in case anyone is interested. I don’t think I’ll make it out to any shows tonight either, but if a miracle happens, I’ll be seeing Bridget Davies and Tom Sainsbury, Rhys Nicholson, and David Correos – although, I’m not exactly sure how safe it is for me to see David Correos in my current easily-could-vom status. That guy can and will do anything and everything.
Coming up next!
My plans for the rest of the week are to rest up so I’m all ready for next week, but I’m also hoping to see Aunty Donna and do a double bill of Rose Matafeo and Guy Williams sometime this weekend. Tickets for their shows are selling out fast, so buy up them tickos!
Also, we’ll be doing a live record of our comedy podcast Laugh Off at The Basement this Sunday at 4:30pm, so come along and join us!