MICF 2014: The Axis of Awesome – Viva La Vida Loca Las Vegas

Axis of Awesome - MICF 2014Reviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

Many may perceive this comedy rock band as a one-hit-wonder as they are most known for one particular song on YouTube however if you were to dig deeper, you will soon discover they are anything but. The Axis of Awesome are a pop rock sensation that specialize in parodying hit songs.

Viva La Vida Loca Las Vegas begins with a perfect parodied medley of the three songs that created the show’s title: Viva La Vida (Coldplay), Living La Vida Loca (Ricky Martin) and Viva Las Vegas (Elvis). Fortunately this is an excellent combination that appeals to all of the age groups in the audience who immediately rise to the mood of the occasion.

The band’s set is a good mix of their newer songs as well as reprising some songs from their first album, Animal Vehicle.  Jordan Raskopoulos has the energy levels of the crowd on a consistent high as any band front-man would while guitarist Lee Naimo demonstrates some deliberately transparent character work, most notably in a one-man song about his criminal ways. Both Raskopoulos and Naimo use their trademarked “picking on the little guy” on keyboardist Benny Davis throughout the show to great comic effect.

After a multitude of syllable perfect parodies and some original works, the band open up the show for some audience participation which gave them a chance to get intimate with their audience.  No doubt every evening’s performance will bring something different; for the show I attended there was shameless dad-dancing going on and also some “Choke ’n’ Stroke” action – something you’ll only fully enjoy when seeing it live.

The show wraps up with the band’s constantly evolving claim to fame Four Chords song. This song – which is possibly the only musical remix to contain Elvis, Green Day and Miley Cyrus together – is a clear crowd favourite, getting laughter of recommendation almost every fifteen seconds.

All in all, The Axis of Awesome delivered a very fun and well-formatted ‘rockstravaganza’. It is a high energy and highly theatrical show which will bring a smile to everyone.

4-stars

The Axis of Awesome are performing at The Famous Spiegeltent at Federation Square every day throughout the festival.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

If you are impressed by Benny’s performance in the band, you should also check him out at the Hi-Fi Bar on April 17th where he will be doing some of his solo stuff as his alternate persona ‘The Human Jukebox’.

*Editor note: I went to see Benny’s debut show at the Edinburgh Fringe last year – check out my Broadway Baby review here.

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MICF 2014: Lindsay Webb – What’s Your Name, What Do You Do?

Lindsay Webb - MICF 2014Reviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

The title of this show should give away the premise, forewarning the audience that this will be quite an interactive show. After a brief introduction and some witty throw-away jokes, Lindsay Webb lulls the audience in to the sense of safety and security which is all but mandatory for a show that requires us to be relaxed and happy enough to reply to his inquisitions without hesitation.

What’s Your Name, What Do You Do? is either spectacular improv or a seamless display of well-honed and rehearsed one liner responses to the most common of answers to his questions. Regardless of which it is this aspect of the show appeared effortless and flawless, with Webb showing that he was as relaxed with what he was delivering, as we were to hear it.

In the last twenty minutes, Webb drops his guard and lets us in to his world. He recounts an event which clearly panicked him at the time, or at least played upon his paranoia, and had the audience on the edge of their seats, listening to every detail. This brilliant tale brought forth a multitude of laughs from the crowd, particularly at Webb’s guilt, and while his pain was obvious, sometimes that’s the hit you need to take for your art.

Even though the show I attended had a disappointing turnout, there were no awkward silences and Webb had everyone in the room laughing hard. The fact that he was able to get so much from such a small crowd speaks volumes in and of itself for the quality of his work.

What’s Your Name, What Do You Do? is a brilliant hour of comedy. It is a beautifully choreographed play on words expertly delivered to the standard that one would expect from a comedian as seasoned as this nine year veteran of comedy.

4-stars

Lindsay Webb is performing at the Downstairs Lounge at the Swanston Hotel until April 20th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

MICF 2014: Timothy Clark and Sam Petersen – Prettygoodfellas

Prettygoodfellas - MICF 2014Reviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

I would have loved to have seen the initial ideas being thrown around for this show. Regardless of how it was conceived, the end result is a well-rehearsed show that is packed with larrikinism.

The concept of Prettygoodfellas is a simple one: Timothy Clark and Sam Petersen always wanted to be what they call ‘gangster comedians’. In this show they get to do just that; pulling off the heist of the century and bringing the audience along for the ride.

At the start of the show, we are informed that we are hostages and are left hoping that if their jokes “kill”, that it’s purely metaphorically. Clark and Petersen are suitably clad for the occasion and they each get a turn to deliver a solo set.

Sam ‘Hairtrigger’ Petersen is up first and his material ranges from politics at home to stories of true London hospitality. The duo are then reunited briefly and some discussion is had about how their heist is going. Authorities are consulted, an audience spokesman is chosen before Tim “Wildcard” Clark takes to the stage. During his set, he dispels rumours of flatting, rolls out some fantastic pop culture and music references, and tells us tales of exposure to semi-racist dad jokes.

Complete with audio cameos from Greg Fleet and a surprise appearance from a well-known big name, Prettygoodfellas constantly has you wondering where it’s going to go next. The show’s climax has some brilliant reveals and a spectacular plot twist. There is also some over-acting that would be perfectly at home alongside Ian Smith (or “Harold” from Neighbours as he is better known as on the panto circuit in England), yet it still manages to perfectly fit in to the show’s premise and with the personality of the comedians.

Clark and Petersen were clearly nervous on the night as it was their first performance and show together and while there is a lot of room for improvement, considering it is their first production, the show is well delivered. They are definitely comedians to watch and I look forward to watching them develop and seeing what they produce when they are more seasoned.

3-starsPrettygoodfellas is at the Imperial Hotel every day throughout the festival.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

MICF 2014: Adam Richard – Gaypocalypse

Adam Richard - MICF 2014Reviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

If you’ve ever seen Adam Richard do any kind of stand up before, you will know that it’s going to get graphic and filthy, so much so that you feel a shower would be an appropriate chaser. But if you can stomach it, it’s worth it as his material is so funny.

Adam Richard is a flamboyant local comedy icon with ten years of breakfast radio under his belt as well as his landmark appearances on Celebrity Dog School and the belly-flopped Celebrity Splash. Known for not holding back, Richard is well versed in letting people know exactly how things work, sans society-induced sugar-coating and gloss.

Gaypocalypse takes the audience all over the place, but in a way that we never feel lost. Richard makes us take a very serious and sincere look at the zombified remains of a life, when it ends and when things change. He explores the idea that life ending doesn’t mean it is the end; that it could just be the end of an era or just a monumental event that changes the path of your life.

Richard tackles and answers many questions throughout the show. Who are the government and government lobbyists hiding behind the excuses of “boat people” and reneging the marriage equality laws? Who should be sent to combat the environmental impact of a deity’s anger? Who should you get to organise a dance party?

This well-seasoned performer manages to eloquently take us through a whole segment of life, giving us several different perspectives and letting us choose our own adventure and opinions when it comes to what really matters in life. Gaypocalypse is a beautiful compilation of sentimentality, storytelling and a bum sex joke at the end to lighten the mood and wrap it up nicely.

4-stars
Adam Richard is in the Backstage Room at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 20th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

MICF 2014: Steele Saunders – Rosebud

Steele Saunders - MICF 2014Reviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

Between his very popular podcast I Love Green Guide Letters, the comedy rooms he runs around Melbourne and from his fabled appearances on Channel 10’s Studio 10, Steele Saunders is becoming a very popular name in the Australian comedy scene. But this year, this well seasoned performer lets down his walls.

For an hour, we are transported to Rosebud, a rich, timeless gem of a small town which lives in the shadow of its big neighbour, Melbourne. From an ill-fated hovercraft to the simple nicknames kindly and lovingly bestowed upon the residents by each other, this town reeks of repressed failure. We get introduced to the locals and hear about all the sights, which include mini golf and that special white box on the pier.

Saunders takes us behind the scenes of the worst night in his life, the lead up to it and the sobering days after. He delves in to the reality that comes with the fun of being young and doing what people do in small country towns. We hear of tall tales that come with boys being boys and the discovery of the small things in life, like when it’s important to keep your knees together and what photos might “poop” up in your future.

It’s important to note that this show touches some very serious topics and often looks at the funny side of it so those with particular sensitivities may choose to steer clear of this. However if you’re hardened to reality, and are prepared to see a man bare it all for comedy, Rosebud simply cannot be missed.

Put simply, this show is brilliant. It is perfectly assembled, eloquently articulated and a little bit embarrassing.

5-stars

Steele Saunders will be performing at the Imperial Hotel until April 20th (not Mondays) – click here for more details and to book tickets.

Saunders is also at the Downstairs Lounge of the Swantson Hotel every Saturday throughout the festival recording a live episode of I love Green Guide Letters – for details and tickets to this, click here.  The Laughing Kiwi also attended this – check out his review.

NZICF 2014: My Top Picks!

NZICF 2014It’s that time of the year again for all us Kiwi comedy geeks – the New Zealand International Comedy Festival!  As I am on the other side of the world, sadly I will not be attending this year – my first in since forever! – but rest assured I will be supporting, reading reviews, tweeting, etc from afar.

Another top line up this year as to be expected with the usual suspects but also some new faces!  For those who are getting overwhelmed by all the shows that are on offer, here are my recommendations (in no particular order):

Chris Martin - NZICF 20141. Chris Martin

Chris’ warped perspective on many things in life and his great comedic sense is an excellent formula for a fantastic, laughs aplenty hour of comedy.

I went to his Edinburgh Fringe show last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself – check out my Broadway Baby review here.

Chris will be performing at the Loft at Q on 25 & 26 April and from 29 April to 3 May.  Click here for more details and to book tickets.

Markus Birdman - NZICF 20142. Markus Birdman

Markus is an extremely sharp and engaging comedian and a captivating raconteur.  His anecdotes are skillfully structured with pitch-perfect comedic timing and will have you in stitches.

Check out what I thought of this same show when I went to see it at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe here.

Markus is at The Classic on 25 & 26 April and from 28 April to 3 May.  He is then performing at the San Francisco Bath House in Wellington from 6 to 10 May before he’s off on a nationwide tour as part of the Comedy Convoy!  Click here for more details and to book tickets to his solo show.

Gordon Southern - NZICF 20143. Gordon Southern

Gordon is the best comedian to go see if you are after comedy that is witty, fast-paced, energetic and just so incredibly feel-good.

Last year’s show was such a joy to watch and one of my favorites from both last year’s festival and the Edinburgh Fringe – here’s my review of the latter show.

Gordon will be at The Vault at Q from 6 to 10 May and The Fringe Bar in Wellington from 13 to 17 May.  Click here for more details and to book tickets – also features my contributor The Laughing Kiwi’s review of this year’s show which is currently at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Jason Byrne - NZICF 20144. Jason Byrne

Jason is born to be on the stage and to do comedy – he is an absolute master at his craft.  His style of comedy is a little bit silly, very raucous and just bloody entertaining.

I was lucky enough to secure a review ticket to see his show – check out my Broadway Baby review here.

Jason is hosting the Comedy Gala on 24 April and then performing at the Rangatira at Q from 25 to 27 April – only three days so get in quick!  Click here for more details and to book tickets.

Marcel Lucont - NZICF 20145. Marcel Lucont

Everyone’s favorite Frenchman is back on NZ shores!  Sardonic, deliciously narcissistic and oh-so-dashing, Monsieur Lucont is a must-see.

The last solo show I attended was in 2012 when he was last in Auckland – read my review here.

Marcel will be gracing us with his presence at the Foxglove Ballroom in Wellington from 29 April to 3 May before his Auckland run in Rangatira at Q from 14 to 17 May.  Click here for more details and to book tickets.

James Acaster - NZICF 20146. James Acaster

James fast gained popularity during last year’s festival and all the buzz and rave reviews are true.  His material is sharp, witty and highly entertaining.

Here’s my review and if you need more convincing here is The Laughing Kiwi’s review who only just saw him at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

James will be at The Classic on 25 & 26 April and from 28 April to 5 May (not 4th).  His season sold out in a flash last year so get your tickets early!  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Urzila Carlson - NZICF 20147. Urzila Carlson

Though she hails from South Africa, NZ has very much claimed her!  Urzila is extremely funny and a top notch comedian with a natural gift of the gab.

Check out what I thought of her show last year here.

Urzila is performing at the Rangatira at Q from 1-3 May and then at the San Francisco Bath House in Wellington from 6 to 10 May.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Dan Nightingale - NZICF 20148. Dan Nightingale

Dan’s affable nature and conversational style teamed with his hilarious stories and self-deprecating humor make for a genuinely enjoyable hour of comedy.

Here’s my review of the show he brought to last year’s festival.

Dan is performing at The Basement from 6 to 10 May and then at the Foxglove Ballroom in Wellington from 13 to 17 May.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Tom Binns - NZICF 20149. Tom Binns as Ian D. Montfort

For something a little different, Tom’s unique brand of “comedium” comedy is a good option.  He is a talented and adept performer and whether you are a believer or a skeptic, I daresay you will leave impressed.

I went to see him last year and was both thoroughly entertained and amazed – have a read here.

Tom as his alter ego Ian will be at the Foxglove Ballroom in Wellington from 6-10 May and then the Loft at Q from 13 to 17 May.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Stephen K Amos - NZICF 201410.  Stephen K Amos

Stephen is an accomplished veteran in the industry and if you haven’t already seen him, you should!  He is extremely good at what he does, garnering laughs effortlessly with his feel-good style of comedy.

Here is my review of last year’s show.

Stephen is at the Rangatira at Q on 25 & 26 April and from 29 April to 3 May before doing one show at The Opera House in Wellington on 4 May.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Other Recommendations!

While I have not had the pleasure of seeing him do a solo show I would also totally recommend Stuart Goldsmith.  I saw him at last year’s Comedy All Stars where he was compère and in the brief times he came on stage, he delivered some really good material.  I also got to see him host his critically acclaimed comedy podcast at the Edinburgh Fringe which was excellent – here’s my review.

If you want more bang for your buck, you can’t go wrong with ensemble shows as they are like the ideal comedic tasting platter!  I would definitely recommend the Comedy Gala; it is quite pricey but well worth it and will get you pumped for the coming weeks of laughs.  There is also the 5 Star Comedy Preview, the Comedy All Stars (this year there are two – #1 and #2) and The Big Show (in the CBD and at the BMC).

For something a little different, Le Comique is a fun variety comedy show that is a great option if you have more eclectic taste.  And finally, for that last comedy festival fix, Last Laughs is a fantastic way to end the festival on a high.

So there you go, my fellow Kiwis – my humble recommendations based on what I have gone to see and enjoyed.  Now get booking and get excited for (in my opinion) one of the best few weeks in New Zealand’s live entertainment calendar!

Russell Howard: Wonderbox

Russell HowardAfter watching many episodes of Russell Howard’s Good News, I was keen to see how the man himself would perform when he swapped his host hat for a comedian one.  Indeed Howard is probably more known in association with his award-winning TV show but I am pleased to say that he is an adept comedian in his own right.

Wonderbox is Howard’s first tour in three years but he is far from rusty.  From the moment he took to the stage he had the audience eating out of his hand easily and hanging on to his every word – his charismatic disposition and magnetic stage presence just pulls you in.

Throughout the show, Howard regales the audience with stories from his life which include some amusing phobias and his jocular relationship with his mother.  He also makes it a point to regularly bring up local references to tailor the show to the crowd which was received very well.

As to be expected in most stand up comedy gigs, there are regular interactions with the crowd.  Howard’s jovial nature meant that these inevitably became shouted conversations across the auditorium yet these never felt distracting or contrived but very organic.  When one audience member got a little too excited by his participation in the show, instead of calling out the interruption, Howard seamlessly included the unplanned addition as if it was part of the set all along.

While his particular style of comedy is nothing too out of the ordinary, Wonderbox is wonderfully upbeat and extremely entertaining.  I found his comical observations and sometimes juvenile antics genuinely funny and surprisingly relatable.

Howard can more than hold his own and his material will have you in stitches.  If you are a fan of Russell Howard’s Good News, going to see him perform live is a must.  If you are not familiar with his work, give him a go anyway as you are guaranteed an evening of laughs.

4-stars

Russell Howard is next performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London from April 14th – 17th.  Tickets will likely sell out so get in quick!  Click here to book tickets.

Wonderbox is also traveling to America, Australia and New Zealand – click here to see all tour dates and to book tickets.  For a taste of Russell Howard’s comedy, check out these videos.

MICF 2014: James Acaster – Lawnmower

James AcasterReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

James Acaster’s sweet and boyish charm has always helped him win over the audience and in this year’s show that certainly hasn’t changed.  Lawnmower gives this seasoned and successful crowd favourite the perfect opportunity to unveil his latest material to an audience who is all too ready to listen.

Throughout the show Acaster talks about what he considers the best of life.  You get to hear the best of his business ideas, presumably for if comedy doesn’t work out, and some excellently thought out opinions on what and who you should, and shouldn’t, take to an orchard and a night club.  For the first time we also get some brilliant character acting from him which is truly riveting stuff.

Acaster’s usually soft spoken and eloquent on-stage persona is not likely to offend so this is a show you can easily bring mum and dad to without worry.  The few times that this persona is broken, it is done with perfectly thought out, comedic precision that catches the audience off guard almost every time, leading to a spectacular explosion of laughter.

Another highlight is when he re-enacts some of the best music of our age before going on to debate about them in a timely fashion.  I thought he had some interesting thoughts about the trends of late adopters who claim ownership of current musical masterpieces which were originally discarded.

It’s hard to see how anyone could go wrong in going to see this show.  Acaster is a brilliant performer whose style of comedy is appropriate for all ages.

5-stars

James Acaster is performing in the Cloak Room at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 20th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

*Editor note: Check out what I thought of James Acaster’s show when he performed at last year’s NZ International Comedy Festival – here is my review!

MICF 2014: Gordon Southern – Your New Favourite Comedian

Gordon Southern - Your New Favourite ComedianReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

Gordon Southern is a fantastic British comedian who has stolen the limelight and entertained us in Australia for the last ten years. He is a well-known face in the comedy circuit but whom I feel is terribly under appreciated. If the secrets of his hilarity were exposed to the comedy-going public, I’m sure he would be selling out rooms every night.

Southern is a Hives fan, which some may have already gathered from his outfit, and this is where the show begins. Taking us back to when he was 18, Your New Favourite Comedian is a systemic review of Southern’s life, focusing particularly on the last decade when he started coming to Australia.

Tales told over the hour brilliantly encapsulate and deliver stories of love, employment and that cockiness that follows us around forever after our first proper job. We also hear of first loves, fourth loves and of the ones who got away.

In this show Southern plays a character which teaches us some surprisingly alphabetical life lessons. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Southern portray a character but judging by the reaction of the crowd the audience seemed to love it.

This hour will take you around the world – starting in Essex, going to Australia, almost never leaving Singapore, and finishes off with a more than sweet happy ending – all while systematically removing the rug from under any hecklers who weren’t written in to the show.

Your New Favourite Comedian is an all-round good show for all audiences which will leave you feeling better about everything. It is strongly written, and strongly presented by a well experienced comedian.

5-stars

Gordon Southern is performing in The Swamp at the Gin Palace until April 20th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

*Editor note: If you need more convincing check out this rave review, also from The Laughing Kiwi, or this Broadway Baby one penned last year by yours truly!

MICF 2014: Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar

Lawrence MooneyReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

There is a particular level of class anticipated in a Lawrence Mooney show and this quality is just as present this year. At the start, Mooney firmly describes the tale behind the show’s title and in the hour goes on to illustrate why it is indeed accurate.

Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar is rife with the classic Mooney charm, the kinds that fans will probably know quite well. A cheeky grin before a brilliant line in a naughty joke leaves the audience either laughing or trying to suppress their laughter because they think they shouldn’t laugh.

Throughout the show, Lawrence effortlessly rolls out some brilliant material about his current life and his marriage. He talks about the joys of new parenthood specifically the dos and don’ts surrounding it, fortunately leaving most of the clichés of comedy in that area relatively untouched.

This is an hour of comedic excellence that gives you an insight in to the average man in his 40’s. We learn the motivations behind Mooney’s actions, his experimental nature and a story about nesting that leaves us wanting to do some avian Google-ing to help answer some of the big questions in life.

Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar is for anyone who can handle a mature level of conversation, or if you like dinosaurs. If you also like a bit of a dirty joke told in between some tales that can make you laugh just a little too hard because you can relate just a little too much, then Mooney will knock it out of the park for you.

4-stars

Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar is at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 12th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

From mid-May you will also be able to see Mooney back on ABC2 for season two of Dirty Laundry Live.