Review: Shortland Street Gets a Heavy Dose of Improv Comedy at ‘Snortland Street’

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if New Zealand’s favourite soap-opera and New Zealand’s coolest comedy improv group combined forces? Weird thing to wonder. But it happened on Friday night, when I had the privilege of attending ‘Snortland Street’. It was the stuff of dreams: an evening with Ferndale Strangler-levels of suspense and even funnier moments than Chris Warner doing yoga on the kitchen floor.

Snort’s weekly late-night improv show is held in the depths of the Basement Theatre, and throws the best young comedy minds in Auckland into the clammy palms of the audience. Many of the Snort members spend their weekdays pacing the Jono and Ben and Funny Girls writers’ rooms at TV3 – others are actors, advertising creatives and playwrights. On Friday nights, they crack the beers and tread the boards, fusing their talents into a motley crew of comedy Avengers.

Taking words from the audience, one random topic becomes a springboard for an improvised guest monologue. The performers will choose aspects from said monologue, and recreate absurd scenes in front of an entranced audience. It sounds complicated on paper, but so does Shortland Street.

The Snortland Street theme brought together many-a Shorty alumni to share a monologue based on audience suggestions. Shorty Street Scandal‘s very own James Mustapic was given the word “pineapple”. He told the saga of the lady he lives with, and her obsession with bowls of fruit salad. James scandalously revealed he’d broken one of her favourite bowls, so the improv team re-enacted a thrilling variety of scenes based on bowl theft in the home. A favourite of mine was a mother interrogating her son, who broke a bowl and disposed of it somewhere in Mission Bay. They all ended up with their shoes off and the hysterical Chris Parker yelling at everyone. 

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It was a real joy to see Calum Gittins (once the saucy Ferndale bad boy Jake Valentine) step up to the monologue podium next, where he was given the word “gardening”. Obviously he talked about potatoes and illegal plants. Somehow the Snort cast ended up forming a six-piece gang of cool jazz cats and encouraged a rap battle. Don’t you ever say that gardening is just for old people. 

Lucy Elliot, Shortland Street‘s beloved Dayna, shared the dark past of her favourite childhood quilt, and her additional FOMO for her sister’s quilt.  If you’ve never witnessed an sketch involving Laura Daniel as an old childhood blanket, trying to guilt Joseph Moore into taking her back, then I don’t believe you have lived.

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It was a fabulous show, each comedian was alarmingly quick on their feet – possibly because Chris Parker forbade their wearing shoes. Who would have thought Shortland Street could be a 7pm favourite, AND an after dark improv comedy spectacular?! 

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