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: 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!

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: Comedy All Stars – First Night at the BMC

Comedy All Stars

This year’s ensemble comedy night at the Bruce Mason Centre was a “best of the British” affair and boy was it an absolute cracker!

Stuart Goldsmith, the  “dirty – but in a good way” compère was loads of fun and effortlessly kept the audience not only well and truly entertained but in high spirits (and hysterics!) throughout.  His charm and charisma is truly infectious – very disappointed that he is not doing a solo show!

Kicking things off was Welshman Elis James who regaled us with hilarious stories about a drunken couple at a wedding and the time he was a one-song-wonder Christmas caroler.  His seamless ability to tell a bloody good story – which includes amusing re-enactments – coupled with his likeable persona will leave you wanting more. 

Up next was the affable Andrew Bird who kept the audience hooked with his animated slice-of-life anecdotes.  His tales ranged from family life involving his “pet human” to dealing with vague cooking measurements (I will never read “knob of butter” the same again!) to my personal favorite – his failed attempt at being not at home at home.

Markus Birdman brought along a slight change in energy with his more edgy style of comedy.  His material is a little on the crass side so is not for everyone but if you are not easily offended, he is an entertaining act.  Talking candidly about sex, relationships and neo-Nazi fashion, he leaves no stone unturned.

After the interval, James Acaster takes to the stage.  He really impressed me at the Comedy Gala so was very keen to see more!  Do not be fooled by the understated demeanor and deadpan style – he is sharp as a tack.  His set is self-indulgent but not in an arrogant way and is incredibly witty and delivered impeccably.

Closing the show is Chris Martin, another favorite of mine from the Gala.  He easily captures and holds the audience’s attention as he relays his jaded perspective of every day things.  His material is deliciously cynical but oddly compelling and easy to relate to.  And most importantly, it’s funny as hell!

Most if not all of these superb acts are performing again at the BMC this coming Saturday (May 4th).  If you are looking to get some laughs this weekend, look no further!  To buy tickets and for more details, click here.

You can also catch them at The Big Show which runs weeks 2 and 3 of the festival – click here for details.

The Whimsical Banana rates Comedy All Stars: 5/5 bananas!