Tag Archives: Comedy

been | Basement Theatre’s Santa Claus

If you enjoy surprises, impromptu comedy entertainment, and being taken out of your comfort zone, then go and see Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, the Basement Theatre’s ninth annual fundraiser Christmas show is being played until Wednesday 20th December. The show is directed by Leo Gene Peters, director of the award-winning independent theatre company A Slightly Isolated Dog. Over the last few years, A Slightly Isolated Dog has been exploring how to make a theatre experience truly alive, by removing all barriers between the audience and performers, and this could not have been more evident in Santa Claus.

At around 6.30pm on Friday evening, the wonderfully petite venue saw crowds of (mostly younger) individuals sipping beer and wine before the show. What people didn’t know then was that they should probably sip a little more, to gain some well-needed courage for later on.

The story, which I found quite hard to follow, (after all the laughter and unprepared involvement) celebrated the way we build up expectations around Christmas and showed us how those expectations can then turn into a nightmare.

At the very beginning of the show, each French cast member introduced themselves, chatted to the different audience groups and asked Christmas related questions. They then used the information they had gathered to open the show. Firing statements back and forth from each cast member… “Camilla will be having a friends Christmas this year, as she is visiting New Zealand.” “Well Ben doesn’t enjoy Christmas because…” and so on. As soon as this happened, the audience felt immediately involved in the show, and we were already giggling as we got to know more about other people.

The killer cast of Hayley Sproull, Jack Buchanan, Andrew Paterson and Susie Berry were truly amazing, which was more evident as the show went on. From my experience, each cast member was personally lovely, hilarious and very spontaneous. They proceeded to put the audience members on the spot, encouraged them to be spontaneous (without much choice) and seemed genuinely interested in ensuring everyone had a great time. They were charming, sexy, funny and very French.

The celebrity guest on Friday night was Rose Matafeo, New Zealand comedian and TV presenter. She’s a writer and performer on the NZ late-night comedy sketch show funny girls, and she was a natural in Santa Claus. She was brought into the story of the show in many different forms – as Santa, Santa’s friend and a baby. Each time she provided improvised entertainment in a cool and nonchalant manner.

Many audience members were also brought into the show throughout the evening. One audience member was thrown a New Zealand post shirt to put on and told to run up the stage with wind and snow-like props in his face. Many other audience members were asked to put on a ‘talking’ Santa outfit, and were encouraged to act spontaneously, dance, create handshakes and ‘go with the flow’. A different audience member was introduced into the show as one of the cast’s lovers, which pressed him to think up and share an elaborate tale of how they met.

Overall, the show had incredibly powerful sound effects, and the cast members blasted out some great Christmas songs. You have to go to the show with an open mind, and be willing to join in the fun and act. This play is not for you if you are reserved and don’t like taking part.

Spoiler alert: The show saw us witness one older gentleman from the audience kiss one of the actors in a very passionate, unrehearsed, spur of the moment gesture. It was absolutely hilarious.

The Basement Christmas Show is one of Auckland’s must-do Christmas offerings and sells out every year, so don’t miss it. You can get tickets from $32 to $50 on iTicket.

NZICF | Frenchy Unleashed

Frenchy’s show can be describe in two words: pure evil.
Having followed his presence online for a while I was somewhat prepared for a show of filthy, lewd and most likely offensive jokes. I wasn’t disappointed.
The lanky Australian bounded onstage at the Q Theatre and launched straight into it. Content ranged from religion and sex fails to Tinder stories and the Kardashians. Highlights included two surprisingly good raps and one severe telling-off of a persistent talker. He also played a couple of hilarious tunes on the guitar, which was a good way of breaking things up.
The man’s humour is gnarly, in the best way. He’s got a rough wit that causes the odd wince but gets the hearty laughs rolling in nonetheless. The show was very well executed, running smoothly while still allowing time for audience interaction, at which Frenchy excels. If you don’t mind excessive amounts of swearing, graphic sexual material and some semi-offensive jokes, Frenchy is definitely worth a watch.
**** 4/5 stars
FRENCHY performed in Auckland as part of the 2017 NZ International Comedy Festival.  Catch him throughout the country on the following dates:
  • May 20 – Theatre Royal, Nelson
  • May 21 – Civic Theatre, Invercargill
  • May 22 – Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin
  • May 23 – Aurora Centre, Christchurch
  • May 24 – Clarence Street, Hamilton
  • May 26 – The Mayfair, New Plymouth
  • May 27 – Opera House, Wellington
Find out more here.

NZICF 17| Brendon Green – Best Friends

The lights are dim in the intimate bar. A bearded man is perched on a stool strumming a guitar, serenading a photo of his beloved.

His beloved being a feline, not a female.

A favourite at the NZ International Comedy Festival, 2014 Billy T Award nominee Brendon Green is back to charm us with his clever wordplay once more in a set dedicated to our friends from different species. Since winning the award for Best Newcomer here for his debut in 2012, Brendon has been busy touring North America and has also performed twice at the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Heart-warming and at times heart-wrenching, Best Friends is not a conventional stand up comedy set in that it is half performance art. Three harrowing stories, carefully curated by his cat, are divided by interludes of hilarious anecdotes about his fear of the ocean, being raised by two parents with different parenting styles, and moving in with his partner. It is actually in these interludes where Brendon shines as a comedian and is most relatable. While compelling with brief moments of humour, the three stories themselves are not comedic per se, but serious.

Even if you’re a self-proclaimed dog person, don’t worry. Brendon won’t hold that against you (much). Energetic, funny, and exuding an easy stage demeanour that makes you forget you are an audience member rather than in conversation with a friend, Brendon’s new show is both personal and enjoyable.

Be sure to catch his ode to our furry friends and the paw prints they leave in our lives at the NZ International Comedy Festival. You can buy tickets here.

3 out of 5 stars

NZICF 17 | Justine Smith – An Hour Roughly

Justine Smith is probably best described as a raconteuse.

The chill of an Auckland Autumn night became a distant memory as we packed into Vault at Q Theatre for an hour of hair-raising tales and no-holds-barred humour, spiced with frequent colourful language and served with lashings of opinionated style. The show flies by and feels like a fraction of a night out with an entertaining, lively new best friend.

Loosely based around the theme of Nature and Nurture, Justine’s show opens with a musical introduction to her family – in fact, family is a recurring theme throughout the evening, as she explores the story of her adoption in sometimes brutally honest style.

Justine’s time spent travelling in her twenties and, later, working in the hospitality industry have sharpened her banter like none other. Life, love, travel, work, men and children – no subject is safe from her hilariously frank observations and sharp-tongued opinions.

Go and see her if you like your stories lurid and your laughs frequent – just maybe don’t ask her about the third time she got arrested… Get tickets HERE.

3/5 Stars

JUSTINE SMITH performs at Vault at Q Theatre until Saturday May 20th as part of the 2017 NZ International Comedy Festival from 27 April – 21 May. For the full line-up of shows in the Festival head to the Comedy Fest website!

NZICF 17| Hal Cruttenden – Straight Outta Cruttenden

Last night Hal Cruttenden made a strong initial impression entering stone-faced to NWA – his nod to the show’s title. He then opened his mouth, broke the spell, and treated the audience to some very British humor.

Interestingly, the naming of the show can be credited to Hal’s recent re-immersion to hip hop music after a hiatus of a few decades; In fact my favourite aspects of the show were perhaps his musings on age and the passage of time. Shakespeare talks about the 7 stages of man; He cleverly condensed it to about 3.

Hal also unabashedly interacted with the audience, ribbing them mercilessly but, for the most part in a non-combative tone (though maybe the biggest laugh of the night came when, on learning about the presence of psychiatrists in his audience, Hal ordered them to “LEAVE NOW”).

The choice of material, and his intelligent commentary on most of it were all fantastic, however his greatest strength is that he seems truly relatible. Scattered with the occasional segue and rant, Hal transitioned smoothly from Brexit to the folly of youth to parenting teenagers to his own upbringing and relationships – the night studded with many a groan or laugh of recognition from the audience. He is clearly intelligent, and clearly concerned with the state of the world – that said, the fact he left America well alone was actually rather refreshing (perhaps it provides too much easy material). He is a comedian who certainly knows how to read the audience and their responses.

The evening passed quickly and energetically, and I can’t recommend you go see him enough, as he really is a true comedic professional.

Get tickets to experience Hal Cruttenden in all of his glory HERE.

4/5 Stars

HAL CRUTTENDEN performs at The Classic until Saturday May 20th as part of the 2017 NZ International Comedy Festival from 27 April – 21 May. For the full line-up of shows in the Festival head to the Comedy Fest website!


NZICF 17 | Dusty Rich – Dusty Rich and The Voices

After years of living dangerously and sitting in the front row at comedy shows, it finally happened. The comedian called on me to interact with him, and it could not have been for a better set. I lied about my name and neglected to mention my other job as a writer who was reviewing his show, and I’ll always have regrets about the hilarity that might have ensued had I done so.

South African comedian Dusty Rich has a manic and masterful improvisational style, with an effective use of bodily movements for physical comedy as well, that makes him a true delight to watch. You have no idea where it’s going, but it will leave you in stitches. It is this talent that most notably made him a perfect opening act for three of The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s shows, and the host of one of Trevor Noah’s tours.

I had never experienced a comedy show where almost the entire set was composed of audience interaction. You would expect such a performance to feel fragmented given the range of tangents the audience could provide, but Dusty always finds a way to personally relate and bounces around the room without ever missing a beat. Never fear if Dusty points your way – quick-witted, engaging, and likeable, he is never mean-spirited. You are made to feel like a part of his performance, not a pawn in it.

Embracing his roots, Dusty is at his best when comparing our cultures, describing the beginning of colonialism in South Africa when the indigenous Khoisan met white people, and skewering the South African government.

Regardless of where you come from, everyone will find something to laugh hysterically at in his show.

4 out of 5 stars

Dusty Rich and The Voices

NZICF 17 | Ed Gamble – The Best of Ed Gamble

Comedian Ed Gamble is a regular performer at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and I hope he becomes a regular here in New Zealand as well. Full of classically British self-deprecating humour, enthusiasm and charm, he guides you through trials of internal panic and bodily betrayal with easy laughter.

Earlier in his career, Gamble was best known for his work as one half of the comedic duo Gamble & Peacock. In 2014 Gamble debuted his first solo stand-up act and since then has had numerous television appearances, including regular spots on BBC2’s Mock of the Week, a headline stand-up spot on Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central and a performance on the US television show Conan. In addition, he is also the star of BBC America’s faux reality show Almost Royal, in which he plays a clueless British aristocrat experiencing America for the first time.

In his own words tonight, “As a comedian, my goal is to lure you in with observational material and then make you think I’m disgusting”. But, strangely, I don’t. I think he’s genius.

Gamble’s interaction with the audience throughout his performance was a highlight. Full of sharp wit and observations about both British and New Zealand stereotypes, he immediately made the audience warm to him.

His flatulence, propensity to panic and say exactly the wrong thing, adult circumcision, and foreign hair in the strangest of places…nothing is off limits. Gamble’s comedy set is very personal and he deftly manages to turn his insecurities and the awkward experiences of the human condition into comedic gold without being overly crass.

Exceeding thirty years of age holds nothing positive for some people, but for Gamble the transition into a new stage of life is a wealth of humorous content for his set. From navigating the bizarre living habits of girlfriends once they move in, to deciphering whether the universe is signalling that it’s time to reproduce, if Gamble is anything he is incredibly relatable and honest.

4 out of 5 stars


Be sure to catch Ed Gamble at the Comedy Festival performing in Auckland until the 6th of May and in Wellington on the 14th of May. You can buy tickets to see him here.