Walking into a dark room not knowing what is about to happen in front of you is scary, but sitting in the front row while it all unfolds is terrifying. This is not the case when you are in the company of the SNORT family though. From the get go the cast, which this particular evening consisted of (Eli Matthewson (MC), Nic Sampson, Donna Brookbanks, Guy Montgomery, Chris Parker, Laura Daniel, Rose Matafeo and Joseph Moore) relax you into their show, making you feel as though the words they are given, like some sort of magnificent, magical spell had been planted in your minds, and they had actually been practising the material for months. If you didn’t know it was improv, you wouldn’t know it was improv.
The show separated into 3 monologues and 3 sets. A nervous audience member will throw them a singular word and then you just sit back, relax and watch their minds explore the possibilities. They are miraculously able to bring life, colour and madness to the stage where just seconds before there was nothing. You see them delve into their subconscious to source personal anecdotes, stories and crazy characters at the drop of a hat. It really is something to behold.
All seasoned pro’s with their regular Friday night gig at ‘The Basement’ back in their homeland. As well as some having their own solo shows at the festival, they didn’t let the smaller than usual audience discourage them. The intimate nature of the night although not ideal didn’t diminish the size or scale of the laughs they received. All inherently quick thinkers, leaving the audience two steps behind and always delightfully surprised with where they would go next.
The comradely and mutual admiration of each other evident. Laughing and supporting one another when on the sidelines, seamlessly bouncing off one another or coming in to challenge and keep things interesting. You are able to sneak a glimpse into each of their uninhabited, wild and remarkable quick thinking minds and as the audience, we reap all the benefits of their madness.
Unlike a phone throwing Crowe, these are some New Zealander’s that we would be happy to claim as our own.
Rosabel Tan - The Pantograph Punch'It’s playful yet pointed, ruthlessly clever but never cruel, and creates the delightful sensation that you’ve slipped and fallen deep into the hive mind of Auckland’s best comedic talent'open/close
For the uninitiated, Snort may not feel like an easy sell: it occupies a late-Friday-night slot (usually 10pm, but the Comedy Festival edition ‘With Friends’ starts at 11.30pm); its name is vague and not particularly appealing; and the premise of the show isn’t immediately clear – which might work in its favour, depending on how strongly you associate the term ‘improv comedy’ with the kind of daft one-liners jogged out by the Whose Line dads of the nineties.
But for those who’ve attended Snort before (it’s only through a fortunate accident that I stumbled upon their last one), anything that makes it a hard sell affords you a level of smug insider knowledge and small physical relief in an unexpectedly packed audience.
The format of the show models Upright Citizens Brigade’s long-running long-form improv night ASSSSCAT. Divided into three parts, each section begins with a comedian asking the audience for a prompt – usually someone in the cast will do this, but for the Festival, guests from other shows have been invited along (‘friends’ this week: Rhys Mathewson, Steven Boyce and Tom Furniss). Once a theme has been selected, the comedian has a couple of minutes to deliver an impromptu monologue (this week: baggage, UTIs and annoying cousins), which is then used as the narrative spine for a series of short improvised sketches.
It’s exhilarating and immensely satisfying seeing comedy born and shaped in this way, and the success of the show rests on the talent of their rotating ensemble cast (this week: Rose Matafeo, Nic Sampson, Alice Snedden, Guy Montgomery, Laura Daniel, Eddy Dever, Hamish Parkinson, Eli Matthewson and Joseph Moore) and their ability to build consistently entertaining and remarkably cohesive stories out of scattershot stream-of-consciousness.
The sketches are smart, reactive, and – crucially – very funny. Part of this lies in the way each member builds on the other's gags: a digression in Mathewson’s monologue into the shift patterns of Air New Zealand pilots, for example, slyly blossoms onstage into an online dating exchange (“looking for someone who can deal with my emotional baggage”), which is immediately derailed by an insistence on discussing flight rosters, which reveals itself as an oft-deployed pick-up line (“pure heroine to women”), which takes us to a support group for all those who have fallen for this line.
Moments like this capture the essence of a Snort show: it’s high-energy, fast-paced and fun. It’s playful yet pointed, ruthlessly clever but never cruel, and creates the delightful sensation that you’ve slipped and fallen deep into the hive mind of Auckland’s best comedic talent.