Comedy Festival 2008, SkyCity Theatre
May 1-3 | Reviewed by Darren Bevan

I HAVE TO admit to never really being a massive Dai Henwood fan – from what I’ve seen of him on C4 his humour to me always seemed a tad juvenile and puerile. So it was with a level of apprehension that I went to his show “Return of Dai-namic Scenarios”. But I was thoroughly wrong to have been worried – the dimunitive Dai put on an excellent show, packed with enthusiasm and of course, interpretative dance. (More on that later.) However, it wasn’t without a shaky start.

His opening “warm-up” act – P Funk Chainsaw, a wrestler nonetheless – made me nervous, and not just because of the leotard and star spangled shorts. As the self-proclaimed Arkansas wonder wandered out in front of the mainly young crowd to a microphone set at least a good few inches than himself, the blustery character seemed to me to fall short, drawing a few minor laughs from myself. However, the audience loved him, lapping up comments that ranged from from Yoda being nothing more than a GM sprout, the melding of Greenpeace and the KKK (don’t ask what their offensive – and yet funny – slogan is), to a self-penned rap, “Don’t Look now – I’m with your Wife.”

After 15 minutes, P Funk left and Dai made a triumphant return on stage. Following an intro that doubled as a brief biography (“was born the same year as NZ Idol winner Ben Lummis”), he bounded on and began with the crowd pleasing interpretative dance he’s become known for. This time it was the Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ which got his routine underway. From there on, I have to say I was bowled over by his enthusiasm, energy and material. Dai too seemed quite humbled to be there – despite 10 years in the business, the larrikin assured us this was the biggest crowd he had played to.

There was a heavy nostalgia feel to the early part of his show as he took the audience back to their NZ youth by talking about tracksuit pants with stirrups, bark chips in playgrounds (“3000 splinters for your trouble”), growing moustaches, and wiping A frames with vaseline. Plus he gave me one of the most troubling mental images I have ever had: Dai Henwood inadvertently was modelled after TV character Blossom in the 80s thanks to his sober fashion faux pas.

It was this kind of affability which really made me open my eyes to Henwood as not only a comedian but a Kiwi performer we can be proud of. He interacted with the audience rather than ignoring them as some comedians can be wont to do.

There was also a lot of focus on current issues in New Zealand – Derek Lovell and the other Hamilton firefighters got a respectful mention by Dai at one stage, as did the ongoing scourge of P, the party pill ban, the prevalence of cones on our roads, the use of Crocs in the Olympic team outfit and the gangs. Actually the gangs material – particularly his impersonation of gang members – were spot on. As was the description of an angry seal being like “a gang member trapped in a giant sleeping bag”. There was a real love for everything Kiwi towards the end of his act and how he would settle here no matter where in the world he travelled – and despite the fact when the world was hunting Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, New Zealand deployed their navy to find Jin the Otter. It was a touch of the absurd which saw him connect readily and easily with the crowd throughout the night.

After over an hour and a quarter, there was really only one way that Dai could end his Dai-namic scenarios: with a couple of dance numbers as he channelled his inner Mick Jagger. Much to the audience’s whooping and cheering, he admitted these were his party pieces and he really couldn’t leave without them. So versions of ‘When Doves Cry’ (performed at a McDonalds) and his infamous ‘Time After Time’ performed with the usual gusto and vigour were real crowd pleasers to end the night.

Dai-namic Scenarios has a very limited run at the International Comedy Festival, and I have no reservations now about seeing him again. Highly recommended.