2017 New Zealand International Comedy Festival (Auckland)

This year I managed to make it to 46 shows during the 2017 NZ International Comedy Festival. As always I couldn’t get to all the shows I would have liked to. I managed 4 of the 5 Billy T nominees and didn’t see any of the Fred nominees.

Some of the shows I missed that I really wanted to see include (but not exclusive to) Rhys Matthewson, Jarred Fell, Brendon Green, Brynley Stent, Frickin’ Dangerous Bro, and The Fan Brigade.

Venues. This year the festival lost Montecristo (2 rooms) from last year and added Backbeat (single room). Backbeat is located above The Rockshop in K’ Rd at the top of Queen St. A nice room with a cool atmosphere and great rock memorabilia on display. The Cellar and Vault at Q Theatre are still suffering from overheating. The Classic main room is still the best venue for watching comedy.

My favorite international acts were Markus Birdman and Gordon Southern. Both telling personal stories in different styles but achieving the same result of a very funny entertaining show. Cool surprise was Lou Sanders. I saw her in a couple of line up shows and thought she was ok, I took a punt and saw her solo hour and loved it. It was a fun hour full of kooky craziness.

I think the best show over all had to be South African kiwi Urzila Carlson. Always a great show this year she raised the bar even higher and smashed it. What was advertised as an hour stretched to 85 minutes yet just flew by. She had such a flow going it was hard to stop. 

I will break up the local acts into groupings. Starting with the experienced pros my top picks were Justine Smith and Nick Rado. One of NZ’s top comedians Justine’s show was different from her normal line up show set. This was a very personal moving and touching story delivered in a very entertaining and funny way, I absolutely loved it. Nick Rado’s show to me felt like a one on one conversation between friends, funny and yet relaxing. Brendhan Lovegrove was also right up there, while he was unwell on the night I saw him he still was his usual full on boundary pushing self having a sold out crowd both gasping and laughing.

The best of the newer comics first solo shows that I saw were Scott W. Long and Donna Brookbanks. Very different shows but both fantastic. Scott seems to fly under the radar at times, he has developed into a great story telling comic. Donna showcased her acting and improv skills by interspersing her stand up with odd yet funny theatrical interludes. I saw a number of duo and trio shows by young comedians with the stand out performances for me being China Gonzalez in P.S. We Also Love Cats, Saran Goldie-Anderson in Saranya Asks: Still A Fuckwit? and Graeme Clark in Unaccompanied Adults.

Between those groups were the likes of 2016 Billy T winner David Correos doing his third solo hour and Louise Beuvink doing her second.
What can I say about Correos apart from his show is an experience. This years show was David going Full Correos taking his antics to a new level. All who experience it were moved in one way or another. I preferred his first show because I like his stories and gags (which he is better at than he thinks) but I still enjoy his craziness.
Louise Beuvink this year moved away from stories from her life and moved to a themed show around being a modern guide to etiquette. A great mesh of 1950s and modern stylings. An added bonus was Louise displaying her hidden singing talent (which makes up for her dancing).

Of the Billy T nominees my stand out pick was Lower Hutt’s Patch Lambert. Patch comes across as the loveable scruff poor boy, he is hard not to like. Angella Dravid has been described as the Queen of Awkward Comedy. I am not sure that she likes that description but it is apt. While awkward she has a sharp quick wit and turns the awkwardness to her advantage. Ray O’Leary’s show was a humourous presentation of philosophical and political views. While I didn’t always agree with his political views and points I enjoyed the jokes they created. Wellington comedian Li’i Alimoana combined music and comedy showcasing his keyboard and guitar playing skills along with an emerging comedic talent. I was unable to make it to Paul Williams.

The Raw Comedy Quest Grand Final was hosted by English comic Hal Cruttenden. This year was very hard to pick with 5 or 6 who could have won. In the end 2016 Class Comedians graduate Ruby Esther took out the award. Combining music and story telling she has already mastered comedic twists to enhance the humour. 

Congratulations to the award winners.

Raw Comedy Quest - Ruby Esther

Billy T James Award - Angella Dravid

Fred Award (Best local show) - Rose Matafeo

Best Newcomer - Melanie Bracewell