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!

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MICF 2014: Justin Hamilton – Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994

Justin HamiltonReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994. It’s a title that gives away little but is later revealed to be so very important to the narrative so much so that the show would very possibly collapse without it.

The show begins by letting the audience settle in to the kind of music one would expect from a Justin Hamilton show; seasoned Hamilton fans would have absolutely no doubt as to who they were about to see while first timers in the crowd are put in the right mood for what is to come.

As soon as the first line is spoken, the mood is set. It is clear what kind of show this is. You are there to hear a story, not be a part of it. Hamilton takes you to a place that you know is real, not some hastily assembled environment where he fits in as many jokes as possible. Through his expert delivery, you are immersed in to the narrator’s mind.

In this show, Hamilton helps you understand a significant part of his life – when he decided that it was time for something new. This decision subsequently led him to being offered something far bigger and better than he expected, and unquestionably far more rewarding.

Throughout the hour we delve in to the mindset of a man exploring a whole new world that has opened up to him. We are taken on a ride and relive many moments with Hamilton; from the hilariously confronting explanations of a very real situation one would not enjoy being put in to, to the heart-in-your-mouth moments that have the audience on the edge of their seats.

This isn’t a show to go to for a quick laugh or to heckle the guy on stage. This is an enjoyable opportunity to see the inside of someone’s life and laugh along with him. Have no doubt, you will laugh, and laugh hard, but be prepared to learn also.

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994 is well prepared and expertly delivered by a well-rounded, seasoned professional. It garnered eruptive applause at its conclusion, and quite rightly so. Go in open minded and you’ll enjoy it.

4-stars

Justin Hamilton will be performing in the Accacia Room at the Victoria Hotel from March 27th until April 19th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

On Mondays throughout the festival, Hamilton can also be found co-hosting The Shelf, touted Australia’s best live comedy show, at the Toff in Town.  Click here for more details and tickets.

NZICF 2013: Markus Birdman – Love, Life and Death

Markus BirdmanI had only seen Markus do brief spots throughout the festival and what I saw I loved so I was eager to see this man strut his stuff for a full hour.  And am I glad I did as it was an absolute comedic treat!

Markus Birdman is 42 years old, a stroke survivor, a self-proclaimed obsessed hypochondriac, an atheist and an ex-goth.  This is only the tip of the iceberg; Love, Life and Death is a candid recounting, a memoir of sorts, of the things he has encountered and experienced in life plus a generous helping of jokes and funny anecdotes along the way.

Throughout the hour, laughter fills the room as we learn a myriad of things like his idea of the perfect death, the time he slapped a disabled child and how a first date got ruined by carrots.  Markus is the consummate raconteur – he holds our attention with ease and each and every story is perfectly structured with excellent comedic timing.

His material does have a controversial side so be prepared to be shocked and there will be some cringe-worthy moments too.  No topic is considered too taboo and nothing is too inappropriate for Markus to talk about in a room full of strangers but it is this brazen attitude that is part of his charm.

Love, Life and Death is an hour of constant hilarity with an uplifting ending that leaves you unexpectedly inspired.  Markus Birdman’s witty and sometimes crass style of comedy will thoroughly entertain and leave you gasping for breath.

The Whimsical Banana rates Love, Life & Death: 5/5 bananas!

Your last chance to catch Markus Birdman is TONIGHT at 7:15pm at The Classic Studio (click here for tickets) and/or at the final The Big Show at 8:45pm at The Comedy Chamber (click here for tickets).

NZICF 2013: Dan Nightingale – On Love, On Life and on the North Island

Dan NightingaleSome people have a natural gift of the gab and just know how to tell a good story and Dan Nightingale certainly is one of them.  His storytelling style is casual and conversational and his set feels more like you’re out at a bar having drinks with a good friend.

On Love, On Life and on the North Island is a collection of hilarious anecdotes and random musings from Dan’s life. He covers a range of topics from sharing about his Saturday mornings with Nigella to ranting about his maddening flatmate who has the nerve to eat the “bread defender” (the crust) to an amusing story involving his nephew’s unwavering commitment to singing carols.

It takes great skill to be able to deliver a string of ramblings in a way that it doesn’t appear too prepared but still forms a cohesive and compelling hour of stand up.  Dan nails this perfectly; his material is well structured and cleverly written with some genius one liners, some of which are easily missed as they come up as mere fleeting remarks.

The thing I particularly enjoyed about this show was Dan’s boundless energy and jovial nature which I found to be extremely captivating.  He comes across as genuinely personable which made the Vault at Q the ideal venue as it helped him to easily engage and form a great rapport with the audience.

Dan Nightingale’s observational humor is incredibly fast paced, deliciously self-deprecating and highly entertaining.  On Love, On Life and on the North Island gives you plenty to laugh about and is the perfect mid-week comedy fix.

The Whimsical Banana rates On Love, On Life & on the North Island: 5/5 bananas!

Dan Nightingale has 2 more shows at 8:45pm tonight and tomorrow night at the Vault at Q plus one extra earlier show at 5:30pm tomorrow.  Click here for tickets.

NZICF 2013: Tom Binns as Ian D Montfort

Ian D Montfort A medium who is also a comedian – now there’s an unlikely pairing.  Tom Binns proves this is perfectly possible with his excellent and convincing portrayal of alter ego Ian D Montfort, the spirit “comedium”.

You are immediately drawn to Ian from the get-go as he is just such a warm and affable character.  He kicks off the show by ironically poking fun at other mediums and telling us he is not like them, that you do not have to be bereaved to be at his show as he only delivers messages from people you don’t know.  This humorous perspective of his ability coupled with his camp disposition is part of his charm and what makes the show so enjoyable to watch.

Throughout the hour, Ian engages with the crowd and makes predictions with staggering accuracy through the usual divinatory means – astrology, tarot cards, numerology.  While I don’t doubt some of his mind-reading methods must involve some form of skilled trickery, there were some things he managed to guess correctly which he couldn’t possibly have known.  I still don’t know how he does it and I don’t want to know as it’s all part of the magic and brilliance of this show!

There are also times when he does get it wrong but he quickly recovers, simply amending the reading to suit so it turns out he is still right.  For example he would guess that someone’s car is black and when they say no he would say matter-of-factly without a skipping a beat that it is indeed black…at night.  His quick wit and sharp responses remind us that Ian is also quite the adept comedian.

Skeptic or not, there’s no denying that Ian D Montfort is an accomplished and gifted performer and what he pulls off in the show will truly astound you.  This is a show you will have to see to believe, and what you will see will baffle and amaze.

The Whimsical Banana rates Ian D Montfort: 5/5 bananas!

Ian D Montfort will be making predictions for 2 more nights at the Loft at Q.  Click here for tickets.

NZICF 2013: Le Comique – Keep Calm and Comedy On

Le Comique

Le Comique is a riotous night of comedy with a bit of a twist.  Featuring an eclectic line up of mostly “oddball” acts, this is a great option for those who enjoy their comedy a bit on the quirky side.

This delectable variety show is co-hosted this year by boisterous ex-pat icons Jarred Christmas and Urzila Carlson and there couldn’t have been a more suitable pair to host the festivities.  From Urzila enlightening us on what “white people curry” is to Jarred’s amusing “true anecdote time”, this energetic duo easily kept the audience well and truly entertained throughout.  I particularly enjoyed the series of “joke offs” where they tried to best each other which in the end culminated with someone prancing around in a flashy red onesie!

With eight acts on the bill, your laughing muscles do get a bit of a workout!  In the first half, Vance Fontaine impressed with improvised songs about love and refrigerators and select audience members received scarily accurate tarot readings by gifted spirit “comedium” Ian D Montfort.  Then Clayton Carrick-Leslie entertained us with his John Key impersonation and a rant about the fine dining menus of today before things turn a little raunchy with some cheeky cabaret by the saucy ladies of Titty Bar Ha Ha.

Markus Birdman kicks off the second half with his brilliant style of witty sometimes controversial commentary followed by “Juan Vesuvius from Venezuela” whose bizarre interpretation of calypso music with maracas and audio tracks didn’t quite resonate with the audience.  James Acaster picked the energy back up with a hilarious set which included a crash course on the three types of mariachi  music and his aspirations to be a sky writer.  The evening ends on a high with crowd favorite The Boy With Tape On His Face who effortlessly enthralled us with his unique brand of silent comedy.

Le Comique is the perfect way to end the weekend and a nice halfway point in the comedy festival.  If you didn’t make it this year, I strongly recommend that you add this to your to-see list next year!

The Whimsical Banana rates Le Comique: 5/5 bananas!

Most of these acts are performing their solo shows this week.  Check out comedyfestival.co.nz for dates and tickets.

NZICF 2013: James Acaster

James AcasterJames Acaster really snuck up on us, didn’t he?  Ever since his excellent set at the comedy gala, New Zealand has fallen in love with him.  He certainly has taken the festival by storm and I feel extremely privileged to have gotten to see this talented young comic in his solo show.

They say never judge a book by its cover and this could not ring truer with James.  Do not be fooled by his meek demeanor – he may be more on the introverted side and the show is quite low energy but it is this more restrained style of storytelling that makes his material so captivating and utter comedic gold.

James delivers an hour of amusing anecdotes and wry observations from his foolproof business plan on handing out free refills as an ice cream man (should the comedy not work out) to his annoyance at songs that don’t rhyme.  His stories have pretty elaborate narratives but they never ever drag – his set is wonderfully witty and intelligently written, perfectly paced with impeccable comedic timing.

By the end of the show we will learn many things about James – how much he loves mariachi music, his skills at Twister and how he plans on clearing Yoko Ono’s name.  Each story transitions smoothly to the next and we even get some “DVD extras” at the end too which I thought was a brilliant touch!

James Acaster is the quintessential stand up comedian and someone who will be in this industry for years to come.  His show is extremely entertaining and a barrel of laughs that will leave you wanting more.  If you don’t get to see him this year, make sure you do on his next visit!

The Whimsical Banana rates James Acaster: 5/5 bananas!

James Acaster’s Auckland season is all but sold out!  Due to this overwhelming demand,  he has added an extra show at The Basement on Saturday May 18th at 5pm.  Tickets for these are flying out the door so get in quick – click here for tickets.  If you miss out, your only chance to catch him live this year is at The Big Show – for tickets to this event, click here.

NZICF 2013: Titty Bar Ha Ha

Titty Bar Ha HaTitty Bar Ha Ha – the name alone should grab your attention and get you curious enough to buy a ticket to find out more.  Sexy, bawdy and just a little wrong, this is the perfect late night rendezvous for those who like their cabaret a little blue.

Set in 1943 England during World War II, we meet Hope and Gloria, the “providers of pleasure” of Titty Bar Ha Ha, a burlesque bar they run.  We learn that they are hiding a very human, very dead secret in their basement which is causing some anxiety but this does not stop them from doing what they do best – entertain and deliver a rollicking good time!

Throughout the hour you can expect many a raunchy song and suggestive dance that will make you both giggle and blush.  The lyrics are incredibly audacious and unabashedly risqué with witty double entendres and are performed superbly with great conviction by this talented duo.  They have some serious vocal chops and they also do an impressive kazoo duet which was a clear crowd favorite.

Although Hope and Gloria love the attention and the spotlight, they also enjoy interacting with the crowd.  They mingle and flirt with the audience and be prepared to be picked to get involved in the shenanigans too, be it in a game of “spit or swallow” or an impromptu dance audition.  This is definitely not a show for the shy and reserved!

If songs about sex and masturbation make you uncomfortable then Titty Bar Ha Ha is probably not for you.  But if you don’t offend easy and are up for some high-end smut, this show has it in spades.  Be warned though: the songs are extremely catchy and you will find yourself humming the melodies the morning after.

The Whimsical Banana rates Titty Bar Ha Ha: 4/5 bananas!

Titty Bar Ha Ha is at The Basement for 4 more nights – May 15th to 18th at 10pm.  For tickets, click here.

NZICF 2013: The Boy With Tape On His Face – More Tape

The Boy With Tape On His Face Both a national treasure and household name in the UK comedy scene, The Boy With Tape On His Face needs no introduction.  After a successful Edinburgh Fringe season where he garnered a staggering eleven five star reviews and won the esteemed Fosters Panel Prize, followed by a twenty-two show run at London’s West End, The Boy is back home with an encore season of More Tape.

The Boy proves that you do not need words to put on a stomping good show.  More Tape is an hour of silent fun backed by a killer soundtrack and is a fabulous mix of magic, vaudeville, puppetry and loads of props!  We are taken in to the world of The Boy where oven mitts sing (my personal favorite!), a game of golf is only a hairdryer away and a measuring tape can provide endless fun possibilities.

Audience interaction is an integral part of the show – you are forewarned this at the very start and advised that you should just play along.  Many people get nervous at comedy gigs (especially if you are seated in the front) for fear of being picked on but this show is one of very few where you hope to be chosen as you want to be a part of the adventure.

Sam Wills, the talented man behind this endearing silent character is an absolute master at his craft.  The show is clever, innovative and well structured – every gag is imaginative and perfectly placed with great comedic value.  Sam sets each one up brilliantly and demonstrates effortlessly that actions speak louder than words, using animated gestures and that signature wide-eyed expression to tell his story.

More Tape is exceedingly fun, wonderfully whimsical and absolutely hysterical – a truly magical experience.  If you haven’t yet seen this extremely entertaining show, put simply you need to.  Your inner child will thank you for it.

The Whimsical Banana rates More Tape: 5/5 bananas!

The Boy With Tape On His Face is performing at Rangatira at Q until Saturday May 18th.  This is your last chance to catch this multi-award winning show so don’ t miss out and get in quick as the season will sell out!  Click here for tickets.

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, The Boy has added an extra show at 5pm on May 18th!

NZICF 2013: David Ladderman – Battle of the Bastards

Battle of the BastardsWhoever thinks Shakespeare is not for everyone needs to get a ticket to Battle of the Bastards. A play that is a play on King Lear, this is a unique and refreshing theatrical piece, particularly in a sea of stand up comedy shows.

Written and performed by David Ladderman, this hour-long play takes one of Shakespeare’s classics and gives it a more contemporary and comical feel.  At its core, Battle of the Bastards, as David explains to us, is essentially about three things: three acts of bastardy, three essential characters and three letters.

With just a bare stage and minimal humble props at his disposal, David skilfully brings to life the world within King Lear.  The Fourth Wall is torn down as he seamlessly goes in and out of character throughout the show; keeping us abreast with the key plot points and regularly checking in with quick recaps to make sure everyone is still on the journey with him.

There are also opportunities where the tables turn and audience members are invited to participate and get involved in the action – including an elaborate fight scene where you even get to cast your co-star.  David’s humor, charisma and affable nature make this interactive element of the show incredibly engaging and particularly fun to watch.

Battle of the Bastards is an enjoyable, fast-paced and highly energetic tragi-comedy and is Shakespeare at its most accessible.  David Ladderman is an excellent writer, a talented performer and just a fantastic entertainer – a triple threat.   Recommended for both Shakespeare fans and the literary novice.

The Whimsical Banana rates Battle of the Bastards: 4/5 bananas!

Battle of the Bastards has finished its run at The Basement in Auckland but begins its Wellington season from May 15th at the BATS Theatre. Four shows only so don’t delay – click here for tickets.