It's more packed than jam in the city tonight and the Comedy Festival buzz feels like hundreds of happy healthy flies have come out to enjoy the party. Nicely dressed flies of course, and very clean.
Mum asks me if this is Andrew Dice Clay. Google images of that if you want a laugh, but no, it's not. Dice Clay is an American comic who wears big chains around his neck. The New Zealand Clay wears a suit jacket and looks like he might be into spray tanning.
I'm imagining that our Clay is going to play up the image of an aging Lothario, that he'll be a predictable blend of charm and sleaze. When he takes the stage he's vibrating with nervous energy, words fighting to escape his mouth, but yes, the expected showmanship is there. Instead of the usual stand-up routine, he introduces us to the cast illustrating his advice on lust and love. There is an awkward stiffness at the start of the show, but this soon melts away on the generous lubrication of laughter provided by the audience.
As Clay uses the actors to show us various scenarios and their outcomes, I find myself laughing often and wanting to ‘talk back' to the characters. There may not be anything in the show you don't already know, but this is entertainment and it's hitting the spot.
Dane Dawson represents the ‘young Kiwi bloke' (monosyllabic and sexist), Damien Avery is the ‘metrosexual' (vain, hot, but has a brain), and Michael Saccente is the ‘sensitive older man' (kind but depressed). Shavaughn Ruakere plays any of the women required. I don't watch TV, but even I know who she is (plus she tells us she's on Shortland Street, so I'm nicely updated now). Her warmth and comic timing are a real asset to the show, and as Andy introduces different scenarios I find that I am a little in love with every single one of them (except Andy).
I particularly like Andy's advice on safe sex: “Always use protection. You don't want to end up with something nasty …” and then a pause before quietly delivering the punchline: “like a baby”.
I felt sorry for any ginger (tribe of Ginga) boys when Ruakere pretends to have a flashback of a horrible one night stand (ginger pubes). Oh come on. Everyone knows that Gingas are firecrackers in bed. Okay, I haven't slept with one myself, but being of the auburn persuasion I feel the need to defend my tribe.
Dawson's character becomes funnier and funnier as the show progresses, and despite his arrogant, stupid persona, there is still something quite sweet about him. Avery is, of course, sexy and adorable. During an internal monologue he ponders his own hotness and that he might be getting a hard-on thinking about himself. I'd wager that pretending isn't necessary.
Saccente is lumbered with the ‘old guy' tag, and all his sense and sensitivity is routinely shot down by Dawson and Avery. Playing it low key and exuding sorrow, he routinely elicits ‘Awwww' from the audience.
At first I thought I didn't learn anything, but I stand corrected. I did find out that I'm mental. Fortunately I'm ‘happy fun mental'. If you want to know which camp you fall into, best get along. This might not be edgy, filthy or crazy comedy, but it really is entertaining and I laughed more than twenty times (yes, I lost count).
If each good laugh cost about a dollar, then that means you are sure to get your money's worth. Keep writing the book Andy. Every day.
Four years after being nominated for Best Show in the NZ International Comedy Festival, Andy Clay’s Book of Love returns for its second season. Presented not as a one-man reading, but more of a self-help seminar, the show is broken into ten chapters, with Clay enthusiastically rattling off a great variety of hilarious observations and one-liners. Although said enthusiasm resulted in him speeding through and tripping over some lines, none were lost, and, more importantly, his exaggerated persona came across.
Aiding Clay is a panel of four actors; Dane Dawson, Damien Avery, Shavaughn Ruakere, and Michael Saccente. Dawson represents the typical early 20s Kiwi bloke and absolutely nails his throw away comments with the nonchalant macho arrogance of a popped collar meathead. Saccente is perfectly pathetic as a quinquagenarian divorcee, and garners an equal amount of empathetic aww-ing and belly laughs from the audience. Avery sits more or less in the middle, far more confident than Saccente’s character, but only slightly less arrogant than Dawson’s. Ruakere covers the female roles, with a few great self-referential jokes which are peppered nicely throughout the script.
The show progresses well under the direction of Jeremy Ellwood, with each of the guest actors challenging Clay in their own way, and Clay redirecting their concerns under the next chapter title. The biggest conflicts come from Ruakere and Saccente, and while some of Ruakere’s extreme portrayals are pitched at a particularly heightened, albeit humourous, degree, Saccente maintains a furrowed-brow forlornness and downtrodden demeanour throughout the entire show which nicely juxtaposes Clay.
The show is inevitably presented from a slightly arrogant male perspective, but it also comes with a clear disclaimer and repetitive warnings regarding this aspect, and, because the show balances itself well between a theatre piece and a stand-up routine, it can’t be taken with any degree of seriousness. Admittedly, there would be members of the audience who, in a particular state of mind or relationship, might interpret the darker humour more pessimistically, but I would implore them to see the show for what it is: an innocent laugh at the one thing on which we all wish there was a how-to book; relationships.