Saturday, 23 May 2009

Mid-year comedy resolution

It's the end of the comedy festival for another year, and I've had a pretty good one and seen a variety of performers. There have been a few scandals thrown up in the face of laughter which make for interesting comment.

One was Rhys Darby crisiticing reviews for giving away punch-lines and saying this was a lazy form of reviewing. This may be so, but surely if a reviewer throws one line into a review, the comic has plenty more where that came from? If he only has one joke, would it be worth seeing his show? The one-liner may give a flavour of the performance to come, like a trailer for a film or the blurb on a book jacket. And how else can a reviewer talk about a comic without mentioning the material?

Another topic of debate was a criticism that reviewers of comedy are usually theatre or music reviewers and therefore don't know much about comedy. Again, this may be so. I would be surprised if there were any dedicated comedy reviewers in this country, as there's simply not enough of it. So we might not be au-fait with the latest in comedy conceits and hilarity theory, but surely we can tell if it makes us and others laugh. Isn't that the point? Or am I missing it in my unspecialised critic way?

Thirdly, on his Dominion Post, entertainment blog, Simon Sweetman complained about the lack of humour to be found in an "interchangeable local female comedian referring to her genitalia a lot." This was, of course, designed to get a reaction - and it did. People love to loath critics. He also had the audacity to suggest that The Flight of the Conchords was just "the same joke over and over." This is tantamount to treason here, where you have to publicly declare alleigance to anything that New Zealand produces.

So there has been much frothing at the mouth over who is funnier - us or them. It was pointed out that the international acts performing here during the festival are at the top of their game and have received some sort of investment to get them this far. Admittedly my favourites of the festival are English, Irish, Scottish, Canadian and even Australian.

Kiwis aren't really known for being a funny people. They are the Switzerland of the southern hemisphere; beautiful scenery and a little bit too uptight. But their stand-up comedians are definitely worth a look. From Jeremey Elwood to Dai Henwood, Steve Wrigley to Jan Maree, there are some very funny people out there strutting and sweating their stuff on the boards with only a microphone and a glass of water for company.

They're well worth supporting and my mid-year's resolution is to see more live comedy. I'll be hanging out at venues lending my support to anyone with the guts to try and be entertaining. First up is this trio of non-interchangeable female comedians who I don't think mentioned their genitalia once between them....

The Comediettes,
Fringe Bar, 19-23 May

Three Kiwi women walk into a pub. No, it’s not a joke, but it is a great night of comedy. The Comediettes are book-ended by Jim Stanton and Emma Olsen, with Sarah Harpur thrown into the middle for contrast. Both have a fairly dead-pan delivery and have managed to master the art of saying truly random statements with a straight face.

This is the fourth time I have seen Jim and each time she walks a fine and well-balanced line between jaded cynicism and fresh material. She is at her best with physical comedy and throughout her piece about reluctant dancing I could feel her pain.

Emma introduces herself as the ethnic quotient of the trio and proceeds to pull random images (literally in some cases, which I won’t spoil for you) from the air. She makes a virtue out of ignorance and her line about proving that anyone can get a degree from Victoria University these days is nicely judged.

Sarah bounds onto the stage like a delinquent sunbeam. High pitched and high voltage she delivers spite with a smile. Her grin is so infectious that she can dish out the insults and you will readily laugh at yourself. The songs she performs at the end of her set are hilarious and she has a pukkah hunch when to deliver the sucker-punch. She is the winner of the 2009 Raw Comedy Quest and on the basis of this set, I can see why.

The Comediettes do themselves a slight disservice with their underwear-strewn set backed with airbrushed pictures of themselves a-la Desperate Housewives. The flyers for discounts on shoes were well received by the women in the audience although I overheard some muttering from a couple of men thinking it was all going to be “girls’ stuff”. These women are anything but desperate and in fact radiate composure which promises bright things for the future of New Zealand comedy.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Carry on laughing

Well, I went to the beginning of the Comedy Festival and had First Laughs, and I have had many laughs since then. For a review of four of the shows I've seen, you can read my review on the Lumiere website.

Two of the big names were Steve Coogan and Dylan Moran - both whom I was keen to see.

Steve Coogan was good, performing a range of his characters including Paul and Pauline Calf, Tony Ferrino (singing sensation of Latin extraction) and, of course, Alan Partridge. As with Beau Tyler, his skit was based on a self-improvement scheme: it seems it's the new comedy.

My favourite bit was the music hall style number at the end which, with it's jaunty chorus - 'Everyone's a bit of a c*&t sometimes' - and cheeky chappy delivery, had a very Monty Python feel to it.

Steve Coogan is a slick and polished professional with perfect pitch and timing. He's got a great voice too and is an excellent performer and entertainer. However, on the basis of this show, I'm not sure that he is a stand-up comedian as much as an actor and raconteur.

Dylan Moran was absolutely excellent. He pretends to be shambolic, rambling and disorganised, but he is so very keen and sharp and I love his material. He probably does have existentialist intense arguments with himself in the pub after one too many red wines.

He was drinking on stage and I'm pretty sure it wasn't put on. I would have to say he's one of the best comics I've ever seen live (along with
Jack Dee, my second favourite grumpy old git) - he seems genuinely bemused and amused by life.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The end of the dream... is just the beginning

Okay, so we didn't win the title and it's all our fault. Those draws against just-promoted sides early in the season have come back to bite us in the bum. Of course it is disappointing to (possibly) be the only side ever to have lost just two games and not won the title.

With a defensive record to be proud of and Reina's golden gloves on the line, Carragher lost it with Arbeloa, which wasn't pretty but showed a determination in the defensive lines that bodes well for next season - yes I'm looking to next season now; it's hard to dwell on the past.

Liverpool have also beaten the club record in terms of Premier League points, but still not won the title. Apart from the early losses, the main reason for this is, obviously, Manchester United. They should be congratulated for their consistency. The fact that Benitez will not congratulate Ferguson only adds fuel to his fire, and makes Rafa seems churlish.

Even if you don't like their manager or some of their players (which I don't) there is no denying that they have won the games they needed to win with a toughness of spirit that is essential to a champion team. Man Utd have now equalled Liverpool's title-winning triumphs, which makes for a great contest next season if nothing else.

But there is a bright side to all this. Stevie G is the Football Writers' Player of the Year (despite Ferguson publicly questioning his credentials) and he has, in fact, played superbly. My favourite was, naturally, the goal against Man Utd in the 4-1 drubbing at Old Trafford.

We'll be back. Meanwhile, I'm supporting Burnley for the Championship. We are buying the lottery tickets but Him Outdoors says how disappointing would it be to get all the way over there only to see them lose - very, I should imagine.

So he too is looking forward to next season where he's hoping he'll be supporting his side playing in the top-flight once again, and actually getting to see them on TV in this country. There may be one or two frosty silences in our house. Bring it on!