It’s safe to say that the winner of this year’s Billy T award will be in good company. The award, which recognises the talent of up-and-coming New Zealand comedians, has launched many a comedy career including those of household names Ben Hurley and Dai Henwood. ‘The Best of the Billys’, is an opportunity for past winners to showcase what earned them the award, and to show those young whippersnappers that they’ve still got lots of spark left in ‘em.
The evening was hosted by Paul Ego, who took home the towel in 2000. Ego’s style is familiar to many by now thanks to his regular spot on ‘7 days’ – he’s a good kiwi bloke with good kiwi jokes (and a fabulous purple paisley shirt, might I add).
Ego actually won the award back in 2000 alongside fellow Auckland comedian Mike Loder and it was a treat to see Loder on-stage doing his thing. He’s clearly comfortable in this setting and his observational and edgy material struck the right chord with the audience.
Less of a hit for me was Steve Wrigley, whose stories seemed to lack substance – starting with a 10-minute toilet story possibly got us off on the wrong foot. He never quite seemed to get off the ground in this set; however his observations about the ridiculous quantities of feijoas around at this time of year did elicit some enthusiastic agreement from the crowd.
Guy Williams’ musings about Richie McCaw’s autobiography and trolling Facebook invites were delivered in his usual sarcastic, hipster-ish manner. The young and energetic Nick Gibb kept his audience laughing with his quick witted remarks and observations, and was contrasted by Wellingtonian Cori Gonzalez-Macuer who charmed us with his awkward yet genuine persona.
The stand-out of the evening was Ewen Gilmour – a seasoned veteran of the New Zealand comedy world who took home the first Billy T award back in 1997. With Gilmour having been on the circuit for a number of years, it’s easy to assume (as I had) that his material would be the same old Westie jokes and crass stories of years ago. Of course it wouldn’t be Ewen Gilmour without the odd blowjob joke in there, but I was pleasantly surprised at Gilmour’s storytelling abilities and his genuine relatability. He is obviously at home when he’s on-stage spinning a yarn about his experiences – whether it be making friends with the blokes at the drug detection agency, talking about life since losing his wife, or getting a tattoo on a very private area of his body.
The pros came to show us how it’s done, and this year’s line-up of NZ’s comedy finest made for a bloody good night out, despite the torrential rain.