Rosabel Tan - The Pantograph Punch'It’s playful yet pointed, ruthlessly clever but never cruel, and creates the delightful sensation that you’ve slipped and fallen deep into the hive mind of Auckland’s best comedic talent'open/close
For the uninitiated, Snort may not feel like an easy sell: it occupies a late-Friday-night slot (usually 10pm, but the Comedy Festival edition ‘With Friends’ starts at 11.30pm); its name is vague and not particularly appealing; and the premise of the show isn’t immediately clear – which might work in its favour, depending on how strongly you associate the term ‘improv comedy’ with the kind of daft one-liners jogged out by the Whose Line dads of the nineties.
But for those who’ve attended Snort before (it’s only through a fortunate accident that I stumbled upon their last one), anything that makes it a hard sell affords you a level of smug insider knowledge and small physical relief in an unexpectedly packed audience.
The format of the show models Upright Citizens Brigade’s long-running long-form improv night ASSSSCAT. Divided into three parts, each section begins with a comedian asking the audience for a prompt – usually someone in the cast will do this, but for the Festival, guests from other shows have been invited along (‘friends’ this week: Rhys Mathewson, Steven Boyce and Tom Furniss). Once a theme has been selected, the comedian has a couple of minutes to deliver an impromptu monologue (this week: baggage, UTIs and annoying cousins), which is then used as the narrative spine for a series of short improvised sketches.
It’s exhilarating and immensely satisfying seeing comedy born and shaped in this way, and the success of the show rests on the talent of their rotating ensemble cast (this week: Rose Matafeo, Nic Sampson, Alice Snedden, Guy Montgomery, Laura Daniel, Eddy Dever, Hamish Parkinson, Eli Matthewson and Joseph Moore) and their ability to build consistently entertaining and remarkably cohesive stories out of scattershot stream-of-consciousness.
The sketches are smart, reactive, and – crucially – very funny. Part of this lies in the way each member builds on the other's gags: a digression in Mathewson’s monologue into the shift patterns of Air New Zealand pilots, for example, slyly blossoms onstage into an online dating exchange (“looking for someone who can deal with my emotional baggage”), which is immediately derailed by an insistence on discussing flight rosters, which reveals itself as an oft-deployed pick-up line (“pure heroine to women”), which takes us to a support group for all those who have fallen for this line.
Moments like this capture the essence of a Snort show: it’s high-energy, fast-paced and fun. It’s playful yet pointed, ruthlessly clever but never cruel, and creates the delightful sensation that you’ve slipped and fallen deep into the hive mind of Auckland’s best comedic talent.