2016 New Zealand International Comedy Festival (Auckland)

This year I managed to make 39 Shows during the 2016 NZICF, over 15 venues. There were some shows that I just couldn’t get to for various reasons. For example was only able to make it to three of the five Billy T Award nominee shows and only one of the three Freddy award nominated shows.

New venues I got to this year were The Herald Theatre and The Montecristo.
The Herald Theatre is hidden around the back of the Aotea Centre and difficult to find. Quite a nice room but the seating & stairs are very steep and the front row is actually on the stage.
The Montecristo is in the middle of nowhere up on Nelson Street but definitely a hidden gem. 
Two great rooms that have a neat relaxed informal atmosphere with painted brick walls and columns and mismatched couches. Very versatile layouts making it suitable for various types of shows and performances. Very unfortunate that the building has to go to make way for the new Skycity Convention Centre.

While on venues the disappointing ones are Q Vault and Cellar for the poor ventilation, lack of air con. These rooms get so hot and stuffy that often detracts from the show. They added some fans this year but still need to really find a better solution. If they fix that problem then they will become great little rooms.

Of the international acts my favourite was Finland’s Ismo Leikola. Officially the “Funniest Person in the World” (a title he won in 2014) he certainly lived up to that billing. His show was called Observing The Obvious and that is pretty much what he did, but delivered in the Finnish deadpan accent with a wonderful charm.

Other great international acts were George Egg, Steve Hughes, Lloyd Langford, Marcel Lucont, Ron Josol and Nish Kumar. Though while Nish was very funny he did lose me with nearly thirty minutes of political material, basically middle class white bashing. Five or maybe even ten minutes would have been fine but not half of a one hour show.

My favourite sketch show was Frickin Dangerous Bro. This featured the very accomplished comedians Pax Assidi, Jamaine Ross and James Roque (and special guest 2016 Raw Runner up Inosi Colavanua). Great sketches. A very relaxed show, maybe a little loose but then that was part of the charm of the show.

Favourite musical comedy show and biggest surprise of the Festival was Torum Heng’s “Keep Out Of My Box”. A number of wildly different characters talking and singing about their sex lives. Torum is a great performer and has a beautiful singing voice. The Fan Brigade were a close second, though did win Best Newcomers for the festival.

I saw many duo shows by some of the newer or lesser known comedians. They were all surprisingly good but if had to pick a stand out I would have to go for “Fools Suffering Gladly” by story teller Ashton Brown and one liner Richard Lindesay.

The kiwi solo show stand outs featured top headliners Urzila Carlson, Simon McKinney, Brendhan Lovegrove and 2016 Freddy Winner Rhys Mathewson. Also other top solo acts were Brendon Green and El Jaguar and a fantastic show by 2016 Billy T Winner David Correos. But my favourite kiwi solo act this season was 2 time Billy T nominee Matt Stellingwerf. Wonderful show, relaxed yet polished and professional.

The show I had been looking forward to for months was the Raw Comedy Quest Grand Final. Having been to a lot of the Auckland heats and both semi-finals I had a pretty good gauge of the Auckland finalists. The Wellington and Christchurch comics were certainly wild cards, though I had seen Lucy Roche from Wellington once before. The show was hosted by 2016 Freddy Award nominee Pax Assadi who did a great job of warming up the audience and showed the outstanding comedian he has become. The standard was very high though Corey Humm from Christchurch seemed out of place against the strong performances from the Auckland and Wellington acts. Of the performances on the night there were six or seven contenders for the top two spots. Inosi Colavanua produced his best showing so far which won him the runner up spot. The outstanding act was Lucy Roche who’s risky and raunchy material won over all the judges and nailed her a deserving win.

The biggest disappointment was not being able to see some of the shows that were only on in Wellington. Neil Thornton, Patch Lambert, Pete Hodkinson & Aiken Hutcheson, Savanna Calton & Lucy Roche.

So overall another great festival. The standard of the kiwi comics is rising every year. We have a number of world class comedians and that number is increasing. Also the number of very good female and ethnic comics is encouraging. This is pushing all the comedians who continually have to raise their game as the standard is rising at a fast pace. Add to that the Class Comedians and Comedy Goblins are getting better and better every year so the future of kiwi comedy looks very good.

Congratulations to the award winners.

Raw Comedy Quest - Lucy Roche

Billy T James Award - David Correos

Fred Award (Best local show) - Rhys Mathewson

Best Newcomer - The Fan Brigade

Best Newcomer (Wellington) Daniel John Smith