Comedy Festival 2008, The Classic
April 29-May 3 | Reviewed by Darren Bevan

I FIRST caught Simon McKinney at last year’s Comedy Festival where, as far as I was concerned, he was one of the stand out acts of the Big Show. Since then I’ve seen him at various nights at the Classic, and I have to say he’s fast becoming one of my favourite comedians. He’s known on the New Zealand circuit as being adept at accents – in fact his Scottish accent is terrifyingly good – but that’s a bit unfair to him as his material’s pretty damn good too.

On a dank rainy night in Auckland, for his first show, a reasonably sized crowd gathered upstairs at the Classic and Simon wandered onto the stage. He seemed slightly nervous to me to start off with – whether it was first night show jitters I’m not entirely sure but I’m pleased to say he shook them off quickly. Although the audience had to keep up with his opening comments about how we all say Airgun to each other. Makes no sense written down, but with his clever vocal intonations, it soon became clear “Airgun” is actually the New Zealand greeting of “How you going...” See – makes sense now eh?

From there, it was a non stop rollercoaster ride through topics as varied as old people and their make-up, the etiquette of how to cope when confronted by a fart cloud on Queen Street, his life as a mascot down in Dunedin to community radio down southland way too. McKinney has a way of leading you down a path whose final destination you don’t quite know but you’re sure to have a good time on the way.

A couple of fluffs saw him taking surreal – but hilarious – detours. How he ever got to Parents of the Caribbean simply by messing up one word of his routine shows just how adept he is at adapting to any situations he inadvertently finds himself in. Shrewd analogies on elderly hearing (Tiny wee spokesman is apparently what his dad hears when the words Tainui spokesman are uttered on the news) and an alternative career for Gordon Ramsey resonated well with the audience.

Worthy of mention is his Star Wars material – it covers Sesame Street before taking on Yoda and Chewbacca (who’s apparently a gruff Wookiee because of the number of cigarettes he carries around in that belt he wears over his chest) in a perfectly logical way thanks to his vocal work. A couple of sublime observations on the puppet work of Sesame Street and Thunderbirds saw me finally unleash my first belly laugh of the International Comedy Festival.

McKinney is a masterful comedian and I’d thoroughly recommend you catching him before his all too brief stint at the Auckland festival runs out – failing that, you must catch him when he’s next on at the Classic Comedy Club.