Last night at the Auckland Town Hall’s Comedy Chamber I was entertained thoroughly by four Brits and one Aussie. This mob provided a superb night of comedy that included a number of candid anecdotes and some clever observational humour.
The night was orchestrated by the solo Australian, MC Mickey D. Luckily the calibre of talent that he introduced was very worthy, or else he would have surely stolen the show. But more about that guy later.
Stuart Goldsmith eased the crowd into the night pointing out his resemblance to a children’s entertainer (70 % Wiggle to be precise) and introduced what was a dominant theme of the night: relationships. But it was the canny James Acaster who provided the memorable riff on relationships, ending his show with a peculiar tale of a couple who get their kicks from Loch Ness Monster hoaxes.
Although all the performers were witty, engaging and had bucket loads of talent, my personal favourites were Andrew Bird and Markus Birdman (an avian conspiracy perhaps?). Thanks to Andrew Bird I will never look at the average southern hemisphere power socket the same again, and that also goes for our animated traffic light green man. Markus Birdman was equally impressive and provided some charming tales describing some of the adventures of being a dad; in one case, Birdman recalls being mistaken for a paedophile hiding in the bushes after his daughter ditches him in an innocent a game of ‘monsters’.
The biggest laughs of the night were for the lone Aussie MC Mickey D as he alluded to some debauchery with a salmon in a condom and creeping home on acid only to find your Dad at the front door. Overall, this is a fine representation of a bloody good comedy festival and if you like your comedy short, varied and slightly devious check out The Big Show before the festival finishes.
For a chilly Monday night there are certainly plenty of comedy consumers out for a laugh. The Town Hall Concert Chamber (transformed into a cabaret venue for the festival) is bustling with folk. The seating is close together so bustling is necessary to settle into the space and meet my table mates before the lights go down.
Our host Mickey D is a solid comedian with years of experience across the UK and the Pacific. He opens strongly; apologising for being Australian, and except for maybe Hamilton (note here that Hamilton takes a beating in this show) he assures us of his great love of all things Kiwi, not that he needs to win us over.
He is likeable, approachable and self deprecating; the everyman. His mostly biographical banter is sharply witty, the laughs are rolling in as he announces first act Stuart Goldsmith.
A self proclaimed children's TV presenter lookalike, Goldsmith is chatty and easy, he also loves NZ, throwing in a damning comment about Hamilton. He has girlfriend issues and is not very good at flirting... but can certainly flirt with us. A likeable start to the show.
Second act Andrew Bird has energy to burn, bounding up to us and sharing his impassioned thoughts of New Zealand and at least acknowledges that his sledging of Hamilton is a cheap shot. He has a Slovenian wife and recounts a great tale of some racist carry-on amongst members of her extended family and there is plenty of religious comment chucked in for measure.
Going into the half-time break the mood in the room is positive and people are chatting about favourites. All is well.
Into the second half we enjoy more tales of woe from Mickey. He's married now you see, and he has never been so wrong about everything, ever before in his life. The blokes in the room clearly relate, though at times it is women's laughter hooting out louder than the boys. This is always a sign of a talented professional at work: when the whole audience is laughing at the same thing but for entirely different reasons. These moments are gold.
James Acaster is also gold. From start to finish: gold. A proper gangly ginger clad in flat front trousers and armed with the quiet confidence of a hired gun, he assassinates us with his easy energy proving he is a laconic, ironic genius. It doesn't matter that he didn't tell us in length how much he loves New Zealand, he delivered the laughs, and that's all we are here for primarily. I could have happily got up and gone home after his very funny set.
So, a tough act then for Markus Birdman to follow. He doesn't seem fazed at all as he launches into his set warning us that there will be swearing. Especially when it comes to Godzone. We are worthy of proper swearing, not us the crowd, nope. The scenery. So he loves NZ too. He has the good sense to swerve away from ‘Hamilgagging' and cracks on into his own personal challenges. Newly single, with a clumsy eight year old wannabe ballerina daughter, his banter brings laughs of recognition and sheer mirth.
Mickey farewells us back into the chill of the evening sufficiently warmed with laughter.
It is a long show, tipping just over two hours, in parts the blokes had such similar threads of material that I felt like I was hearing the same gag said differently. But then the odds that five men – four British comedians and an Aussie comedian based in England – will have cross over material is quite high. All round a good, big show.
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Yvan J DrakeMickey D (MC)
Tonight's MC Mickey D managed to demonstrate a well-honed ability to wrangle a crowd into generating raucous laughter, in what I can't imagine makes a very easy venue to play, set up more for dinner theatre than a night of comedy.
Mickey managed to get the audience well on-side by breaking out some observational kiwi comedy, whether fresh, or retrieved from his previous visit, nearly four years ago. He doled out some good advice for would-be hecklers in the room, and cleverly impersonated the differences between Kiwis and his fellow Australians, in a way that even the australians in the room would have understood.
Appearing fresh off a National Tour, Goldsmith managed to reign in the audience quickly, bringing in quick punchlines to have some of the audience even doubled over with laughter. Whether he was creatively assessing that age old question here in New Zealand of why a Guide Dog crosses the road so willingly, or breaking out some depressingly honest electrically charged humour, he had the audience completely in the palm of his hand.
Andrew is a comedian I'd not seen, or heard much about before tonight. He did managed to win me over very early into his set, be it with his dramatised tales of Shark Escorting, domestic promotion, or the new view on the old standard assessment of family matters. A newbie to the NZ industry, he's made a very good impression on this reviewer, and it's a genuine shame that he doesn't have a solo show this year. Make this show your chance to see him.
Initially starting off with an unimpressively meek approach to addressing the audience, it was quickly apparent that he was in fact merely restraining his enthusiasm, ensuring to keep his on-stage persona in place. This connoisseur of mariachi music managed to drag one segment of his show just a little bit too long, to that nasty place where a great bit, became tedious, but he shortly reigned that in, recovering his stance explaining his entrepreneurial ability.
Markus opened with brilliant tales of his past careers, offering advice and translations that might send some parents into a tailspin, when it comes to retrieving some paperwork from the past. Showing off his credentials as both a Fashion Consultant, and Parent, the biggest laughs came when he combined the two, before wrapping up with some advice around schooling.
This is clearly a well put together all star, four star showcase, and if you can't get to these act's individual shows, make sure you see this appropriately named Big Show. Mickey D has a show opening tonight, while Acaster and Birdman have shows opening next week. This showcase is your only remaining chance during this festival to enjoy Andrew Bird and Stuart Goldsmith, and I can't recommend grabbing that chance with both hands, strongly enough.