This is the first Late Laughs showcase of the festival and there is a crackling excitement brewing in the audience. This is the show where you will experience the edgier material, the controversial taboos blown wide open, the seamier more adult conventions of comedy and most definitely the 'C' word.
It is not long after he lopes onto the stage in welcome that this weekend's host* Guy Williams proves he is more than capable in the role, bringing his own eccentric voice to the party and plenty of laughs with it. He drops the 'C' bomb with aplomb and to great effect as he warns us that we should be prepared for some eye-popping antics.
Enter our first act, 2011 Billy T Award winner Nick Gibb. Swaying in with hands full of Jagermesiter shots, he sets the bar high very quickly with a great aside about his inside-out jacket and drunk television preachers. His solid form has us laughing quickly and the wonderful intimacy of The Basement means we are all able to admire the bulging vein in his forehead during his depiction of a short-wicked mother in the Pack N' Save. A favourite moment for me is his mention of a rather racist gamer and the notorious Oscar Pretorius. A great start.
Williams throws down a dance-off challenge to a mouthy audience member who then refuses to join him on stage which brings out Williams' natural gift for pushing the line right to breaking point and coming back with the laugh. It is clear the audience loves him.
TJ McDonald (who will host this show in the third week of the festival) saunters on stage with laid back confidence. His set is packed full of laughs that have us either shrieking with laughter and/or gasping in shock. His riffing proves incendiary and he has us firmly in the palm of his hand as he muses on race, religion and chain mail and gets us near riotous with his reference to a bag of female body parts (I will leave naming said parts to your imagination).
This is classic late night fodder but also shows that TJ has come ahead with his style in leaps and bounds. He is leaving our shores shortly, and I suggest you find a way to catch him work before he goes.
The absolute highlight of my night, however, comes in the form of two real British lasses, dressed to the nines in corsets, stockings and tutus. Titty Bar Ha Ha give us a taste of their Retro Cabaret Spectacular which is scheduled to kick off in Auckland this coming week. One word: AMAZING.
They sing, they dance, they play a pair of mean kazoos and they have us mesmerised; filled with giggles from go to whoa. I refuse to spoil what they do, you should just go see it for yourself! As these two luscious divas sidle off the stage to deafening applause I am pretty sure I have seen the feature act of the night.
But no. There is one more. James Nokise is introduced as the show's headline act. The night is in safe hands here, Nokise immediately asks; "It's Late Laughs, who's drinking?" The rest, as they say, is good late night laughing schtick.
Late Laughs is a proper late night show on Fridays and Saturdays only, with a line-up that changes nightly. It's also a long show: I advise a visit the loo before you take your seat. It is a good value show, offering snippets of some of the hottest talent involved in the festival and certainly a good way to cap off a night of laughs in the big little city. Definitely R 18, leave Gran at home (unless she has a Harley and the mouth of a trucker, taking her will only make your relationship awkward!).
*Nick Rado hosts Late Laughs 10 & 11 May and TJ McDonald hosts 17 & 18 May.