Ben Hurley is happy to be back at the San Fran where he started out as a comedian 13 years ago, and to have got to Wellington before the bad weather hit. He's an ideal host: amiable, warm and very responsive to audience offers. A young woman throws him comedy gold by saying she met her itinerant English boyfriend at The General Practitioner. Perhaps he honestly doesn't know that's now the name of the restaurant and bar on the corner of Willis and Boulcott Streets.
Even when his material is prepared, Hurley has a knack of making it seem spontaneous. He links between most of the acts, keeping the laughs coming and preparing the ground well for the relatively inexperienced – but more than newbies – talent. [Ben Hurley plays the San Fran, 12-17 May, 8.30pm.]
When Adam Wright kicks of his set with a reference to animal lovers, I'm surprised he doesn't use the news of the day – about banning animal testing for synthetic highs – to his topical advantage. His ‘poor boy' titles for cut-price children's stories makes for whimsical comedy, as does his analysis of Postman Pat from the words of his signature song. [Adam Wright played Kitty O'Shea's last week – see review.]
After the bearded Hurley regales us with what keeps happening to him on planes, Eamonn Marra brings his very different approach to the stage. He mines what he and/or society sees as his short-comings – not least a supposed lack of confidence – to generate empathetic laughs, especially with his pre-written compliments to himself. His commitment to gender-neutral insults, his claim to have faked it as a comedian in order to get a music gig at the San Fran, and his inspirational song pastiche complete the night's best confidence trick. [Currently playing Puppies, 5-8 May, 8.45pm – see review.]
Nik Bruce-Smith riffs confidently on flats with thin walls, pillow talk, naked streaking, making a dick of himself overseas, testing the bound of liberalness and shared school lunches. Randomly standard stand-up fare. [See Rob Harris below.]
Hurley treats us to his 3 year-old daughter's first joke and the difference between the advice you get about becoming a father and the actual experience before introducing the hugely talented phenomenon that is Hayley Sproull.
Her performing persona, comic compositions, keyboard skills and singing are world class. Whether it's a song arising from anger management, trying out a new chord progression, expressing her love of moustaches, or teaching us fake singing trick – a veritable farrago of parody here – she has her audience in the palm of her busy hands. My only complaint is that her lyrics are so clever and her rhyming so wicked (e.g. literal / clitoral) that the otherwise admirable speed of her recitative stops us savouring the detail. Nevertheless, Sproull is the undoubted star of the night.
Another day, another smashing comedy show. Last night’s Next Big Things at Q’s Rangatira was a veritable feast of comedy’s new and emerging talent. Ben Hurley hosted, warming the crowd up like the pro he is, and encouraging the audience to be supportive of these relative newbies. The Comedy Festival just gets better with every passing year, and it’s great to see that there’s plenty of room on the schedule for the younger, less-exposed comedians out there, as well as the bigger names.
Most of Next Big Things’s comedians do have their own (very reasonably priced) shows in the festival, so coming to a night like this is a brilliant way to sample each act before deciding who to hone in on. Clearly among this lot are the future Urzila Carlsons and Rhys Darbys of NZ comedy. One who is definitely on his way is Steven Boyce, a core member of the Fanfiction Comedy crew who is obviously very comfortable having the stage to himself too. Newcomer Sanjay Patel was another favourite with the crowd with his deadpan delivery and offbeat material, while Becky Crouch’s ‘Walking Dead’ tribute song went down a treat.
Another musical interlude was provided by true-blue Kiwi and talented musician, Sam Smith (a writer for Jono and Ben at Ten), whose upcoming show ‘Augmented Fourth’ looks very intriguing indeed. Louise Beuvink’s tales of online dating woes were another crowd-pleaser, and Hamiltonian Paul Douglas won us over with his bloke-ish charm and naked-drive-thru stories. The zesty and cheeky James Roque was an especial treat with his impressions of various rappers’ signature sounds. Keep an eye out for this chap in future, I like his chances.
Next Monday night it’s Wellington’s turn to get a dose of its local up-and-coming comedic offerings, and if Auckland was anything to go by, it’s one not to be missed.
For the original review head to: