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From the Shambles Theatre to ‘Pukemakoe’: On the road with Guy Williams

Tour producer (and Spinoff Comedy co-editor) Natasha Hoyland joins Guy Williams on his mini tour of New Zealand in the lead up to his Comedy Fest show Why Am I Like This?.

Organising Guy’s North Island-plus-Nelson tour hasn’t been easy. It was fun to start with, but quickly got hellish. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a mild phobia of phone calls and if there’s any other way to get something done, you can bet I’ll do anything to avoid picking up a phone. I had to learn to brave my fear when I found that lots of these small town venues didn’t have websites or email, like they were still in prehistoric times or something.

One of the biggest hurdles I came across was trying to book a suitable venue for Pukekohe. The venue I ended up booking was the Pukekohe Town Hall. It seemed ideal to begin with, but turned out to be absolutely less than. I booked a venue for each tour date months in advance, and a week or so before the event, I would get in touch with them to double check that everything was good to go for the show. When I did this for Pukekohe, I didn’t get a response for days. The lady that I had been talking to, who I had believed was the person who ran the venue, suddenly stopped responding to my emails.

Defeated, I picked up my phone. I was about to call her when I discovered that her number had mysteriously disappeared from my phone. I found this real odd, and a bit scary considering I am a massive horror movie connoisseur and this felt a lot like the plot to an M. Night Shyamalan film. As a last resort, I emailed Auckland Council, whom I booked the venue through, to which their response was “she doesn’t work with us anymore”. My theory was that they killed her, and that Pukekohe was set to be an absolute disaster.

Pictured: Guy and I coming up in the chairlift at Skyline Rotorua

Road tripping to Rotorua

“You’ve played back to back New Zealand hip hop, you need to bring the heat, this is weak.” This was Guy, complaining about me playing Larz Randa followed by David Dallas. I soon had my aux cord privileges revoked and we ended up listening to Kotahitanga an upwards of five times for some reason.

We arrived at our Airbnb and spent the next 10 minutes yelling and screaming, trying to work out how to turn off the house alarm. Once that was sorted, I was excited to discover that the Airbnb had a house cat named Sugar, who had slept through the entire alarm ordeal, unbothered.

We had dinner at Sabroso, which Guy claims is “the only good restaurant in Rotorua” and to be fair, it was pretty good. We then dragged ourselves and our full stomachs to the venue with a great name, the Shambles Theatre.

I knew nothing about this venue before coming here, but it’s one of Guy’s favourites and I soon learnt why. There’s such a beautiful community spirit there; the people who run the venue make everyone who comes to their theatre feel like they’re part of the family. It’s tiny and homely, but it’s one of the best venues I’ve ever come across. I loved every second that we spent there. The gig sold out, but they managed to cram extra people in who they didn’t want to turn away, in particular a guy who had just rushed out of hospital after surgery specifically to see the show.

Pictured: Guy gearing up for a gig at Shambles Theatre in Rotorua

Paul Williams, who opened for Guy, went down a treat. He did an original song called Love and Understanding which was a huge hit with the crowd, before moving into some jokes, and he really killed. Guy came out rapping Numb/Encore, and even though I’ve seen this about a thousand times, it’s still quite surreal.

The gig went amazingly well, and the crowd were awesome. They seemed to genuinely love it, and I found them a lot warmer than Auckland crowds, which is all I’ve ever known. With audiences like Rotorua, they’ll let you know when something’s not funny.  They’re much more keen to get involved than Auckland audiences too.

After the show, audience members politely lined up to talk to Guy and take selfies. One of the ladies who works at the venue ran over and quickly snapped a group photo of the entire audience. “It’s for our newsletter,” she said, the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.

It was such a great gig; I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room full of people that were so genuinely happy.

I had one of the best sleeps of my life that night, so good that I woke up and panicked because I didn’t recognise my surroundings and forgot where I was.

The next morning, we brunched at Terrace Kitchen, a cafe that Guy made us go into because “Clint (Roberts) said it was good” and because he saw on a blackboard that former X Factor NZ band Fare Thee Well would be playing. The whole time we were there, they never showed up.

“LUGE FOREVER!”

…is something that Guy constantly kept saying the entire time we were up at Skyline, luging. The scenic track is beautiful, but there’s a morbid-as conference tent that looks like the set of a budget horror short film, complemented by a few abandoned luge carts. The views were nice, cruising through the forest, and there’s nothing I love more than almost crashing into 100 tourists.

On the intermediate track, I had a great time trying to focus on being alive whilst Guy and Paul tried to kill each other by racing, and at one point almost pushing me off the track and down a hill. Numerous members of the public came up to Guy to ask for selfies, mostly dads asking for their children and even staff that worked there. Two kids in front of us on the chairlift spotted him and they got chatting, Guy teasing them about them bringing their own helmets. “What’s the best luge track?” he asked after finding out they were locals who came here regularly. “The advanced one, obviously” they replied before challenging him to a race. He lost.

“Pukemakoe”

…is what Guy kept calling Patumahoe, the new place we found ourselves in when Pukekohe turned to dust. I wasn’t able to sort something out for the Pukekohe Town Hall because of my R.L Stine-authored life, so we ended up having to book a new venue on the Friday.

A lovely guy called Rhys hooked us up and we ended up heading to The Village Kitchen and Bar in Patumahoe, a place that literally no one has ever heard of. We had to do a drive by at the old venue because a lot of the audiences members had still turned up there due to a ticketing misunderstanding. They all followed suit and about 80 heads turned to stare us down when we pulled up.

The ‘green room’ was a tiny storeroom out back, and one of the chefs walked out onto the stage just as Guy was introducing Paul.

Pictured: Guy in the fantastic Patumahoe greenroom

Paul didn’t have a mic stand, so got a girl in the front row to hold it for him while he played his keyboard and sung, which everyone thought was hilarious.

Despite some technical difficulties, the gig started off incredibly, Guy doing his Numb/Encore rap again, this time kicking down 3 chairs and knocking over some guy’s beer whilst doing so. He joked about our venue booking struggles and how some lady at the town hall who probably doesn’t exist just gapped with our venue deposit.

The mic kept cutting out, but as Guy observed, you’d hardly notice because he talks so loud he doesn’t actually need a mic.

He asked the crowd who was on Twitter and two 14 year olds and one 8 year old putting their hands up. Another guy shouted “NO!” and when Guy asked what he did instead of being on Twitter, the guy responded: “Your mum”.

The shift in audience response was fascinating. The only heckles that Guy got in Rotorua were from people who worked at the theatre and wanted to correct him on his incorrect plugging of their upcoming theatre show.

Yet, despite all the horrific hassle leading up to the gig, the Patumahoe/Pukekohe hybrid gig seemed to be a hit. The only thing that I rate them low on is that there was rugby on the TV instead of the premiere of The Bachelor NZ.

Pictured: Guy and the “Pukemakoe” crowd

Tickets to Guy’s show in Hamilton can be found here, and tickets to his Auckland and Wellington seasons in the upcoming NZ International Comedy Festival can be found here.

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