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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Janeece Gunton: Herstory

Janeece GuntonThere are not many theatre productions that can both completely repulse yet still entertain.  After watching this very controversial black comedy, I felt perplexed and torn – there were parts I did honestly enjoy but there were also other bits which were genuinely quite traumatizing.

Janeece Gunton: Herstory by Pandora Productions paints an extremely graphic and exaggerated picture of who many would consider the ultimate lowlife  in New Zealand society.  Janeece is vulgar, devious and an all round despicable human being.  Everything she does is for her own personal gain and there is absolutely nothing that she won’t do to get what she wants.  This self-serving quality is a central theme in the narrative and is the catalyst to many of the events that unfold.

The story is told candidly by Janeece herself who is portrayed with remarkable believability by Yvette Parsons.  The Fourth Wall is absent as she converses with the audience directly, sharing her cunning and fraudulent plans with us.  The rest of the cast put on credible performances as well, in particular Andrew Ford as the creepy WINZ fraud officer with the very disturbing sexual fantasies.

Janeece’s crude and larger than life personality is a lot to take in and the same can be said of the dynamic set design.  The performance space is incredibly well thought out – not only does the disordered surroundings greatly enhance the story but it also is an extension of Janeece, giving her character more depth and providing us with even more insight in to the kind of life she leads.

Personally it was a little too bawdy and gross for my liking but I can certainly appreciate that that is the point and in that sense, this production has hit the nail on the head.  It is highly irreverent, extremely crass and above all it is not afraid to challenge the boundaries of theatre; there are things that you will witness that will make you gasp, cringe and wish you could unsee.

Janeece Gunton: Herstory is an assault to the senses and is not for the easily offended or squeamish.  But if you’re up for some vile and unabashedly bad taste theatre done brilliantly, you will not go wrong with this show.

The Whimsical Banana rates Janeece Gunton: Herstory: 3/5 organic bananas!

Janeece Gunton: Herstory is at the shiny newly refurbished Basement Theatre until June 29th.  Click here for tickets.

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: 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.