Comedy Festival 2008, Opera House
April 20 | Reviewed by Kate Blackhurst

First Laughs kicked off the Comedy Festival in Wellington at the Opera House which is a great and salubrious venue, despite John Fothergill remarking he had never played in a ‘satanic wedding cake’ before. Dai Henwood hosted the evening, delivering some very entertaining comedy patter of his own and introducing the fourteen acts, who each had about ten minutes to give a sample of their act.

This must be extremely difficult, as they are all competing for the comedy dollar – I guess the idea is that the audience will pick and choose which full-length acts to attend based on these truncated performances. It’s like comedy idol. Not only must this be hard for the comic who doesn’t do gags and relies instead on observational and anecdotal humour, but also because many stand-up comedians use similar material.

The common themes of the night were slagging off the Hutt Valley and Aucklanders (they’re not just Jaffas apparently because none of them taste like orange chocolate when licked). Party pills, the Hamilton V8s and Rock to Wellington were also mentioned frequently, and the buzz word of the comedy circuit seems to be ‘intense’.

There is a lot of talent on offer, and the mix of international and home-grown acts keeps things interesting. Stand-outs for me included James Nokise with his unique brand of Samoan Welsh humour and Jerome Chandrahasen who thoughtfully provided a flow-chart so we could keep up with his comic trajectory. Simon McKinney’s ‘Star Wars in the cafeteria’ incorporated some great impressions, and Jeremy Elwood was a cut above with his deft delivery and seamless links.

Josie Long was excellent proof that female comedians don’t have to mention penises to be funny, and John Fothergill was a tough uncompromising Geordie comic or ‘drunken Ewok’ (his words) who you wouldn’t want to heckle. Not all of it was strictly stand-up with The Lonesome Buckwhips and Mrs. Peacock each performing their own twisted versions of love songs. Full credit must also go to Vinyl Burns who represented Heavenly Burlesque while playing a guitar on a unicycle.

This was a superb appetiser to pique the interest and hint at the treats to come. For the next three weeks, Wellington will be rocking with laughter; get out amongst it. With the nights and the electioneering closing in, we could do with a good laugh.