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.

Preview: Gordon Southern

Gordon Southern 2014

Reviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

I was lucky enough to be able to catch Southern during his week-long season headlining at The Comic’s Lounge in Melbourne where he not only showcased some of his best work but also took the opportunity to fine tune some new material for his upcoming new show, Your New Favourite Comedian.

Southern effectively followed on from material that had already been laid down by the preceding comedians in the lineup while effortlessly interacting with the crowd.  His act contained both current and local references, rather than solely relying on proven generic material.

Clearly a shining star in his field, this seasoned pro is unquestionably underrated in the Australian comedy scene.  Based on the reaction from the crowd tonight though, this should rightfully change.  Southern is “down under” until the middle of May, performing his shows of the last two years – A Brief History of History (2012), and The Kerfuffle* (2013) – before premiering his 2014 show in Adelaide for the Adelaide Fringe.

*Editor note: I saw The Kerfuffle at last year’s New Zealand International Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – check out my 5-star review of the latter performance here.

Southern is a comedian who never fails to deliver and has a great record of winning over even the coldest of comedy rooms with tales from his home in London and of his travels.  This overwhelmingly knowledgeable comedian expertly controls his environment to ensure each of his punchlines have maximum impact, all with the appearance of never even being slightly challenged.

Get in quick to get tickets to this star performer at every chance you can, he’s not one to be missed.

5-stars

Gordon Southern will be premiering his new show Your New Favourite Comedian at the Adelaide Fringe from February 13th – March 1st.  For tickets, click here.

Southern will then be performing at the Canberra Comedy Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival and New Zealand International Comedy Festival respectively.

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: 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: Arj Barker – Go Time

Arj Barker

If you don’t know “Arj Barker, the comedian” then you will almost certainly recognize him as “Dave from Flight of the Conchords“. Arj is back on our shores with an 85% new comedy show (so he says) and one which I found to be quite the scintillating experience.

The show kicks off on a bit of a musical high; Arj serenades us with a comical vocal performance where he promises to deliver gags until we all “L-O-L”. His set is a display of extremes that mesh together seamlessly – he is energetic yet low key and his material is unquestionably entertaining yet also surprisingly contemplative.

Arj eloquently describes Go Time as a “smorgasbord of treats” and this is definitely true. He goes from talking about the dangers of ordering spring rolls to how hide-and-seek has been ruined by technology to his very witty Utopian view of the future. Where he strikes comedic gold is one particular gag that becomes a running feature throughout the hour – I will not divulge any more as I really do think it is best coming from the man himself!

When some jokes do not get the response he was hoping for or when he discovers all too late that a bit was ill researched, he tells us that it’s all part of his new joke structure. I found this clever approach of critiquing his jokes to be incredibly endearing. His set consistently runs along this path of self reflection which makes for quite a candid and personal show.

Go Time is an insightful hour of profound and intelligent comedy with some really great laugh-out-loud moments – just as he promised in his opening number! It’s a rather mellow and philosophical show but one that is compelling, uplifting and extremely enjoyable.

The Whimsical Banana rates Go Time: 4/5 bananas!

Arj Barker is performing tonight May 10th and tomorrow May 11th at SKYCITY Theatre – click here for tickets. Seats are limited so get in quick!

NZICF 2013: Tom Gleeson

Tom Gleeson

It”s hard to believe that this is Tom Gleeson’s debut at the festival as he has been a familiar face on our televisions from his regular appearances on TV3’s 7Days.  After the hour, he proves that he can completely hold his own and is an excellent comedian in his own right.

Being an Australian comic, it is not surprising at all when he starts poking fun at New Zealand.  Calling us a self-deprecating and simultaneously progressive yet backward nation, he subsequently justifies this by saying that unlike other comics, he doesn’t do New Zealand jokes back home but saves them up so he can do it to our faces.

It is in this audacious and brash fashion that Tom delivers his hour-long set to us and boy does he do it so very well!  His material ranges from both reminiscing and griping about technology (“iCloud backs up your shame” – genius) to hilarious examples of how fatherhood has caused him to see things, like strippers, in a different light.

Each gag and every joke is brilliantly set up and superbly told with some truly remarkable punchlines that will alter your perspective on the most ordinary things – like bread rolls and why you should never pick a mirror up from the floor.  He tells us he is a rule-breaker in real life and this rings true in his stand up routine as well.

Tom himself said it best – he is an acquired taste.  But his crass, in-your-face style of comedy is genuinely funny and wildly entertaining.  A top notch hour of stand up that I would definitely recommend.

The Whimsical Banana rates Tom Gleeson: 4/5 bananas!

Tom Gleeson is performing at The Classic for 3 more nights – for tickets, click here.

NZICF 2013: Urzila Carlson – The Long Flight To Freedom

Urzila Carlson

Urzila Carlson has been a part of the local comedy scene for a while now but I believe she hit the comedic jackpot last year with her now famous catchphrase “don’t go falling in love now!”.  Since then she has become an undeniable local favorite.

Don’t let her South African accent throw you; she now calls Aotearoa home and we have been more than happy to return the favor, proudly embracing her as our own.  The Long Flight To Freedom, put simply, is an autobiographical recount of how Urzila came to be in New Zealand.

Throughout the hour, she shares candidly a collection of comical stories that span from birth to childhood and finally to present time.  Dreaded family holidays at the farm, a memorable family team building exercise involving a resident mouse, tips on dealing with noisy neighbors and her genius plan on disciplining her soon-to-be-born “Jesus baby” – Urzila bares all.  Her casual delivery and laidback style made it feel more like a conversation among friends which suited the narrative perfectly.

There is no doubt that Urzila was born to do comedy.  From start to finish she had the audience hooked on her every word.   Her ability to garner laughs from the crowd so effortlessly coupled with her skill in delivering material so naturally that it feels completely unscripted is a real gift and mark of a brilliant comedian.

This is an entertaining hour of getting-to-know-Urzila that will bring endless laughs.  Everybody needs to see this extremely talented lady live – here’s hoping for an encore, and in a bigger venue!

The Whimsical Banana rates The Long Flight To Freedom: 5/5 bananas!

Urzila Carlson has already sold out her entire season but you can still see her in action as co-host at Le Comique this Sunday May 12th – for more details and tickets to this event, click here.

NZICF 2013: Gordon Southern – The Kerfuffle

Gordon Southern

After a successful run at last year’s festival, Gordon Southern is back in New Zealand with his trusty sound effects box and unique brand of edutainment-style comedy.  The Kerfuffle is a delightful hour of rapid fire stand up that is an absolute joy to watch.

There is a whole lot that gets covered throughout the show.  Audience members are designated celebrity personas (with weird hobbies like taking photos of meat), he relentlessly pokes fun at British idiosyncrasies and we find out why he has forty avocados in his flat.  We also get treated to an impromptu Bollywood dance lesson and learn about the time he threw caution to the wind and faced off against a certain Prince dubbed “Captain Wales” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

His material is upbeat, engaging and wonderfully witty with impeccable comedic timing, particularly when he chooses to use his signature “that’s a fun fact!” audio insert.  He also recounts some genuinely heartwarming and compelling stories from his family life which he manages to fit in seamlessly without significantly affecting the energy of the set.

Gordon is undeniably a gifted entertainer and skilled performer which he unabashedly credits to him having a drama degree.  Drama degree or not, his charismatic disposition, boundless energy and animated storytelling will have you captivated from start to finish.  If you weren’t a fan coming in to the show, I daresay you would leave as one.

The Kerfuffle exudes feel good, is immensely entertaining and packs a comedic punch.  If you enjoy fun facts, jokes about the Royal Family, toy giraffes and just bloody good comedy (with the odd rap thrown in for good measure), you will thoroughly enjoy this show.

The Whimsical Banana rates The Kerfuffle: 5/5 bananas!

Gordon Southern is performing at The Classic Studio until May 11th – click here for tickets.

This review can also be found on Keeping Up With NZ.

UPDATE: Here is my Broadway Baby review of the same show which I saw again at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

NZICF 2013: Tom Green

TomGreen

Tom Green’s show was like no other comedy gig I have attended.  With non-stop (positive) “heckling” from the crowd, it definitely felt more like a Freddy Got Fingered catchphrases and appreciation night than anything else.

While his film roles and MTV show precedes him, Tom is a skilled and superb stand up comedian in his own right.  His unique brand of “shock humor” sits well with a Kiwi audience as does his cynical but comical thoughts on many things, like getting high on twink (the old school kind that came with a brush) and my personal favorite of the night – the discovery that there is no cheese in Chinese food.

Tom’s comedic style is edgy and “in your face” but not overly reproachful – put simply, he’s just bloody entertaining!  His material is made up of intelligently written one liners that sit in snappy scenarios rather than long drawn out anecdotes which means a lot is covered within the hour.

What I particularly enjoyed was his brilliant delivery of some really engaging social commentary which he incorporates seamlessly in to his set.  His thoughts on what if suicide was made to be illegal and how we reward bad behavior by “failing upwards” not only rouses much deserved laughs but is surprisingly insightful.

Judging by the popularity of his show and the exuberant vocal nature of the crowd, his arrival on our shores has been long overdue.  Let’s hope he returns for an encore.

The Whimsical Banana rates Tom Green: 4/5 bananas!

Tom Green is performing TONIGHT 9pm (May 5th) at the Opera House in Wellington and at the Aurora Centre in Christchurch, TOMORROW.  For tickets, click here.