Started in 1976, when Amnesty International noticed John Cleese was a member and approached him to do a show, The Secret Policeman's Ball came to NZ for the first time in 2012 to celebrate 50 years of Amnesty International.
This year 10 comedians play to a full house at the Town Hall. The audience includes a mixture of people out for a laugh, and activists supporting Amnesty's work.
I'm not sure what to expect, but with 10-minute routines from a range of NZ comedians, and those from further afield, there is something to entertain everyone: local stories of run-ins with the cops, comments on political correctness and racism NZ-style, along with the tried and true relationship issues, mobile phone mania, and cultural observations of other nationalities.
Highlights include the mesmerising kitchen gloves song and gravity-defying exploits of The Boy with Tape on his Face, Tarot card reading with ‘Ian D Montfort', Simon McKinney's impersonation of the British upper classes and Chris Brain having to buy flowers for his girlfriend as court-ordered reparations.
Although political satire isn't a priority, Nick Gibb manages to make standing at a Palestinian checkpoint with an assault rifle pointed at him and his grandmother sound funny. Raybon Kan tickles us with his attempt to collect Mighty River shares by standing at the river's edge with a bucket. Dave Bloustein thinks that explaining the Marriage Equality Bill is easier to explain to kids than how bedtimes are set, while TJ McDonald suggests that the NZ equivalent of Obama-mania might be Winston Peterphelia.
Altogether The Secret Policeman's Ball offers a varied line up with the feel-good additional benefit of raising money for a good cause. As part of the Comedy Fest it also provides a fitting reminder which is at the heart of Amnesty International's work: “that the freedom to outrage and provoke is essential to every comic, but in some countries being funny can cost you your liberty.”