The Class Comedians programme will always have a place in my heart. As someone who has been intimately involved in the process I can tell you it has churned out some of the greatest new talent NZ has ever seen; UK-based Billy T Award winner Rhys Mathewson, television personality and Billy T Award nominee Rose Matafeo, producer /performer /uber comedy whizkid Heidi O'Loughlin and radio producer funny man Tim Batt are only a handful of them!
If you are unfamiliar with how the programme works, it is an inspired recipe: around twenty senior secondary school-aged students from all regions of Auckland are selected through workshops to undergo an intensive two months of workshops, writing, performing and professional mentoring before presenting a graduation showcase.*
But what do you do if you want to keep going at comedy? Hook up with the other keen beans and put on a show. So, very simply The 2012 Graduates we are seated to meet are just that: six graduates of last year's programme with (supposedly) more experience under their belts and some sparkling new gags to wow and entertain.
This is a traditional stand-up comedy showcase: MC Daniel Hunter explodes in a bundle of nervous energy, smiling broadly while his eyes dart about for a willing victim in the front row … He easily finds one in Alex, a music teacher. Dan has obviously watched other comedians in the role of MC as he does tick many of the boxes that any good MC must, albeit a little awkwardly.
He does one thing tremendously, something that even after twenty years of hosting I sometimes struggle with: remembering every comedians' introduction line, which he manages with ease and pomp which is impressive for a sixteen year-old who has endured enough public transport trauma to set him walking all his days.
We first meet the only female comedian in the showcase. Clad in a green sparkled lycra suit, Mily Hemi had an awkward childhood. She is a breath of fresh air with bouncy confidence and sure beginnings of some great gags based around dance. She is physically gifted and brave which will see her well on her way.
A backstage introduction proves a giggle as MC Dan struggles with the next act's surname (I feel his pain; I dropped mine after the first show I did. There is nothing worse than hearing an MC choke on your last name). As soon as Suvi (Suvaan Shunmugam) appears I can see the charm radiating from him. He prowls the stage recounting tales of life and crisis as a Year 13 student. With a swagger that reminds me of Dean Martin, he has a beautiful gift for storytelling, and leeaves me with a broad grin.
MC Dan is back quickly to round us up. His rather shocking introduction of the next act leaves me on edge though; it's pretty gross! Sean Davis rolls up to the microphone clad all in black with a click in his voice and a serious air as he rails against plastic bags and James Cameron. The Waiheke Island reference gets me and I stay with him to the end. With a solid delivery and a dark side drawn into his material, he could well be the next generation's Lovegrove.
Peter Nancarrow is up next. A likeable face, he is stern; he has got a real issue with lies and liars. Fair enough, I'm not big on them myself. And issues with his brother. And Rainbow's End. There are some good twists in his tales. Somewhere in his angst lies the golden thread of gags and I look forward to seeing where he will take his comedy.
Ravi Gurunathan closes the show. He has energy to burn and an open, toothy grin. He instantly establishes a comfortable rapport with the crowds and his mastery of voices and accents has everyone giggling with relative ease. He is the only performer who is heckled (I laugh like a drain as the heckle is over calculus... Haha, a maths heckle!!), and he shows skill in dealing with it and moving on. He has great biographical material that, with application and more stage time, will see him going places, if his mother will let him off from study!
We were a small crowd in the studio last night. I urge you to consider popping along, it is very reasonably priced and I feel confident you will get to say at some stage in the future, "I saw (insert name here) when they were just starting out." Which, when you say it, will make you feel rich beyond measure.
There is everything to love about these young guns having a go; their absolute rawness. They are in a learning stage and this stage is for learning. This show is a great reminder that the majority of those who fall on the path to comedy have actually been found by comedy. Because great comedians are born to it, then made wholly and solely by stage time.