Jan Maree is definitely one of New Zealand's best comedians, a fact made official with her Fred Award last year.
Her latest show, Hairy Today Gone Tomorrow, got off to a fairly slow start last night with Jan imitating her Croatian relatives. It wasn’t that funny, but comprised some crucial building blocks for the rest of the material.
It wasn’t long however before Jan was treating the crowd to a great series of jokes about pubic hair. It was surprisingly not as juvenile as it sounds and ended up developing into a hilarious segment on grooming in general.
Most of the show focuses on Jan’s escapades around the world over the last year, with highlights in Indonesia and Croatia. The funniest segment revolved around what Jan got up to during the 2007 Rugby World Cup. It's probably the best segment I've seen of any show at this year's festival, one of those classics that builds your laughter gradually over its course into a crescendo of exploding guffaws at its climax. But it might not be for everyone and I think the Hamilton heritage I share with Jan may be part of the reason I was so thrilled with it.
Jan's an all-round comedian in a wonderful, mature stage of her career. She’s physically funny with an impressive range of facial expressions, she’s got great timing and most importantly of all, she has a knack for telling interesting stories in highly entertaining ways.
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After winning last year's Fred Award, Jan Maree had the world as her oyster.
Which is probably a good thing given this half-caste Kiwi / Croatian lady had a sudden attack of the "Who am I?" and "Where am I from?" syndrome.
To be honest, a voyage of self-discovery is always a worry for a show - it's prone to self obsessed sentimentality rather than sharp insights; thankfully, Jan Maree is the complete opposite of what you'd expect from one of these trips in the vein of Who Do You Think You Are?
Caustically funny, raucously rude and yet surprisingly touching at the end, this journey is one you really do want to take.
From the quest to get a good waxing because of her hairy Croatian roots, to panic brought on by a teacher friend moving to Thailand, Jan gives this occasionally demented travelogue a freshness and live-wire feel that's eminently watchable.
Energetic and amusing, Jan has a penchant for story telling and a predilection for situations which bring out the bizarre which translates very well on stage. With an eye for a very funny one line quip here and there, she's also a great performer.
With a surprisingly moving ending as well as Jan celebrates her core Maree-ness, I left this show in a reflective mood, having been amused and also moved to thought.
There's something about this show that many of us will recognise deep within ourselves - a need later in life to understand our roots, to embrace our heritage and to celebrate what we've become (and why).
But it never becomes mawkish in Maree's hands - sure, it's a personal and moving trip, a confessional piece dripping with history and poignancy. However, Hairy Today, Gone Tomorrow is never short of side-splittingly asides, punchlines or perfectly delivered moments as you are welcomed in on the journey - and for that reason, you should make sure you sign up to enjoy the ride.
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Keeping Up With The Grid!To my shame this was the first female comedians show I have seen at the NZ International Comedy Festival, but what a way to start! (Never fear I have a few more on my list this week).
From the minute a glam Jan Maree bounced and Croatian danced on to the stage it wasn’t just her outfit that got my attention, it was her confidence. She has the perfect level of self assurance and likability which instantly endeared her to me.
Her hour show is like having a really good pub conversation. Those ones that just flow out and go off in tangents, often ending in sentiment but always making you laugh along the way.
Hairy Today, Gone Tomorrow is Jan’s story of her heritage, and how trying to find her roots brought her full circle back in to the embracing arms of Aotearoa.
There are brilliant characters that emerge from her retrospective look of how she experienced her heritage growing up, including her frightening older relations and the embarrassment of her Croatian surname.
Her antidotes cover various aspects of her life many of which relate to her having inherited ‘the shit bits’ of being Croatian, sporning the hilarious benediction of the wax ninja!
Jan has made her life affirming journey into a genius hour of joyful anecdotes and observations.
It comes as no surprise that Jan Maree was a Fred Award Winner in 2011. She has honed her skills to become a fantastically versatile performer who not only makes you laugh but really connects with her audience.
For these reasons I am adding her to my shortlist for the inaugral ‘The Grid’ Comedy Award 2012!