‘I think she’s having a fit!’ – NZ comedians share their festival horror stories

Every comedian has at least one horror story. We asked some our favourite funny people for their festival nightmares, and we got back stories ranging from lost luggage to accidental hypnotisation.

I just arrived in Melbourne to find out my venue is double booked and now I have to do my show at another time to the one people have booked tickets for! Wish me luck! – Nic Sampson


At the Ottawa Fringe Festival in Canada, a full house watched us accidentally hypnotise an audience member.

In our show, David [Ladderman] puts me into a trance. With an audience volunteer tapping out the rhythm of my heartbeat, I stop my pulse. Later, I bring it back. This time? As well as my heartbeat, it was our audience volunteer who went under. As in, hit the floor, completely out to it. We have experience with hypnosis but were gobsmacked. Somehow, we’d stumbled upon the world’s most suggestible woman!

There was this horrible silence in the room. Dry-mouthed, David brought her back, giving her a whole lot of really positive affirmations as he counted her back into the room.

She opens her eyes, no idea what’s happened. Everyone thought it was part of the show. The woman and her family loved it so much they led a standing ovation that night… Those Canadians all thought we were actual wizards.

But we left the theatre white-knuckled, and spent the rest of the night with shaking hands, slowly draining a bottle of Jamesons. – Lizzie Tollemache, one half of Mr and Mrs Alexander: Sideshows and Psychics

Illustration: Hamish Parkinson

Last Monday [at the Melbourne Comedy Festival] I open my audience-participation-heavy show to the just the reviewer. As in, there is one person in the audience.

Just as I drag him onstage, an artist pass (someone else in the festival who gets into shows on a stand-by basis) turns up. I go for just under 40 mins making these two poor people do everything. I later learn that the one I requested take a sip of cask wine is a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in ten years.  Hamish Parkinson


Last year I did my first full run at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and it went great! Except for the fact that for two of the four weeks I was very, violently ill sick. I went to the doctor and he told me I had Giardia.

Giardia, if you don’t know, is a disease you get from contaminated water in third world countries. But I got it in Fitzroy some how.

It was so bad that I was literally on the toilet for whole days, then I’d tram in, do my show, tram back home, and go straight back to the bathroom.

One night I came in to do the show and the men’s toilets were out of order and the queue for the ladies was ENORMOUS, so I did what I would consider my riskiest performance ever.

I never shat myself during the show – did shit myself at my Air BnB though. But it was all good! The Air BnB review came through afterwards and it was great, they didn’t even notice that one of the robes had gone missing. – Eli Matthewson


This is at Edinburgh airport. I arrived on the day of my pack in and tech and I’m waiting by the baggage carousel for my bags to arrive with our props as person after person leaves with their bags. Finally it just stops, empty, and an old woman next to me mutters, “This always happens at this fucking airport” – Also Hamish Parkinson


Two weeks into my Melbourne run last year I was having quite a challenging show. It took 45 minutes before I finally won the audience over, which was perfect timing because the only joke I had left was an absolute belter. So I was setting up my closer and heard quite a low groaning noise from the back of the room.

Undeterred and unwilling to risk losing momentum, I continued with my set up before the noise returned, louder and more urgent. Thinking I was getting heckled, I began my brilliantly constructed take down of the inarticulate buffoon when another voice from the back of the room said “I think she is having a fit!” The lights came up, and the attention turned to a woman at the back of the room who was indeed having a fit. I stopped the show (very accommodating of me) while paramedics were called and the audience filed out of the room. That was the end of my show. – Guy Montgomery


When Snort came over for our first Melbourne Comedy Fest, we had a lot of great guest comedians come and do monologues. Because it was also our first festival, we put a call out to other comedians we didn’t know to come in and do a monologue for us to. One night, we had a guy come in to do a monologue who was an Australian improviser. The word he got from the audience was ‘sheep’.

However, he started the monologue with “Do you know what’s like sheep? Chlamydia.” He literally said, “I don’t want to talk about that, I want to talk about the couple of times I gave girls chlamydia.” Then he proceeded to brag about how he called these girls up to tell them he’d given them chlamydia and they were all so impressed that he’d let them know and thought he was such an amazing guy. Suicide featured in this monologue too. He just came across like a total dick and gave us nothing to work with that wasn’t truly awful. Also, he didn’t reference sheep once. – Donna Brookbanks

You can book tickets to these comedians’ shows in the NZ International Comedy Festival right here.

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