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Review: Joseph Moore’s 1989 at the Montecristo

Despite what Taylor Swift’s album would have you believe, she does not hold the monopoly on 1989. As we found out in Joseph Moore’s comedy show of the same name – there was much more going on that year than the birth of a lady in a “nice dress staring at the sunset”.

Bookending his solo show with loud musical extravaganzas, Joseph Moore packs in as much energy, noise and coloured lighting effects as the dingy subterranean Montecristo room will allow. Even on a Tuesday night, the venue was buzzing with the famed holy trinity of pizza, beer and live comedy. The posters ain’t lying, it’s a pretty great place to be.

Moore’s opening was more than “quite-high-energy”, as his neon pamphlet wearily promised – it was flat-out berserk, and had the whole room laughing. You can immediately see where Jono and Ben – for which he writes – gets their wild musical numbers.

Taylor’s 1989 is an autobiographical and observational journey, and Joseph’s 1989 is too – with almost as much pop music and slightly fewer free polaroids. He’s on a quest to be a better person, with all his anecdotes purposefully concluding with the message that he’s a “piece of shit”. But if he’s a piece of shit, then so are we, and no tale passed without that crushing recognition in each and every member of the audience.

Along with his titular pop culture reference point, Joseph manages to pepper his tales of woe with some breathtakingly uncool cultural figureheads. Hurricanes players from the ’90s. The Hits DJs Polly and Grant. His uncle Phil. The fact that he generates the same response from such off-brand choices ensures that he’s not limited by his age or his very ‘cool’, very ‘now’ style of comedy. It’s all a ruse – he’s as uncool as the rest of us pieces of shit. To borrow a phrase.

It’s easy to draw parallels between elements of the show and the style we see on Jono and Ben. He sets an unbelievably fast pace, plowing through a plethora of gags from accents to prerecorded audio interactions to prop comedy. 1989’s pace and breadth mirrors that of his day job, and his grounding there might well be why he’s able to successfully weave so many elements together. The main difference between the two is that he is consistently a lot funnier – and far more deserving of a one hour slot.

The influence of his background is evident in the spectacle, speed, and sheer quantity of jokes, but this is no bad thing. If anything, it’s a continuing testament to the skill level of this particular generation of young NZ comedians (Rose Matafeo’s show was the same). You can see what happens when they apply their comedy tools to a longer DIY project, rather than having to just do repairs on a drafty hovel week to week. Whatever flack Jono and Ben might get, it’s ultimately doing God’s work in prepping their young team of comedy writers to soar far above the shoulders of the Hallenstein’s suit-wearing radio giants someday very soon.

[Full disclosure: I tried to write for Jono and Ben once, it was outrageously difficult and I was never asked back.] 

With all that said, there were also points of difference from the brand of humour on display at Jono and Ben. Moore was not afraid to slow down slightly and open up about himself, weaving in traumatic near-death experiences and their existential outcomes as well as his own penchant for long-distance relationships. As his year-twin once said, “boys only want love if it’s torture”. I jest, but these more reflective moments were crucial and could have come more often. They showed that behind all the jazzy sound effects and strobing technicolour lights there lies a beating heart inside this piece of shit.

[Full Disclosure, part II: I wish to disclose that Joseph and I know each other and have worked together. In fact, we used to share a feature on this very website called Catch Up Club. Just as Taylor Swift is open about her relationships, I wish to be open about mine within this comedy review. As you were.]

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