Some of the country’s brightest comedians took the stage Saturday night for a two-hour showcase. MCed by the always-excitable Dai Henwood, Billy T Award winners of years past gathered for one short set each.
First up is Rose Matafeo. Last year’s winner is young, only twenty-two, and her humour reflects this. Hip, off-beat and just a little bit awkward, Matafeo zips through anecdotes about her Rastifarian upbringing, the problems with curly hair, and some truly spot on impressions.
Cori Gonzalez-Maucer is next. Having just return to NZ from LA after starring in a new film by Taika Waititi, some might be wondering if the 2006 winner’s skills have dulled in his absence. Put those fears to rest. He walks the stage like an old pro, and his material consists of a mix of sharp one-liners and longer anecdotes. It keeps the audience on their toes, and judging by the laughter, they were clearing paying attention.
A quick intermission and more Dai before Justine Smith takes the stage. Other than the host himself, Smith received the best response of the night, her sassy, self-depreciating set causing eruptions of laughter. Focusing largely on the trials of modern love, Smith didn’t reinvent the wheel, but did keep the audience laughing without pause.
Last up is 7 Days star Ben Hurley. Clearly a seasoned performer, Hurley carries himself with an easy-going confidence, making it look easy. Much of his material revolves around his life as a family man, and it’s the sort of stuff that could fall into lazy clichés in the wrong hands. But Hurley brings enough laidback Kiwi charm to make it all sound brand new.
Unfortunately, barely a few minutes into the evening hecklers began drunkenly answering rhetorical questions and generally being an annoyance. You would think people paying to see some NZ’s finest comedians would be there to pay attention. If there was one bright side to the interruptions, they did allow Cori Gonzalez-Maucer the chance to vent, providing some of the biggest laughs of the night.
This being a sort of greatest hits show, such surprises can be rare. But with comedians this reliable, that isn’t always a bad thing. As an advertisement for individual shows, consider me sold.