Comedy Festival 2008, Bluenote Bar
April 29-May 3 | Reviewed by Helen Sims

FRESH OFF the plane from the UK, stand up comedian James Nokise put on an entertaining and varied performance in the seedy surrounds of the Bluenote Bar. It seems obvious that he has gained considerable maturity as a comedian – he had prepared a sharp set based on tried and true material (mostly race-related) but was able to divert from it to interact with some of the more vocal members of the audience. Although he felt too far from Newtown or the Hutt, the “Raros” (and potential mob members?) at the back of the audience kept him on his toes.

Like most stand up comedians of some skill his comedy has a serious underpinning – in his case the racial stereotyping of Pacific Islanders, particularly Samoans in New Zealand – although at several moments in the show he wondered out loud if he was guilty of perpetuating some of those stereotypes as well – particularly after his Samoan interpretations of Bible stories. On this note I found it slightly odd that at some points he seemed to unconsciously assume a (thicker?) Samoan-Kiwi accent. It seems a fine line to walk, but is indicative of his intelligence that he is at least conscious of the dilemma.

He was on safer ground during material that was more personal, especially his familial anecdotes. It can be difficult to judge quite how much of what a stand up comic says has its underpinnings in truth, but in Nokise’s case he at least appears genuine. I wonder, however, how often he sleeps on the couch for all the jokes at his girlfriend’s expense. He also related several stories based on his experiences in London – the Waitangi Day “celebrations” of inebriated ex-pats was particularly popular.

Bluenote worked well as a comedy venue, and the lighting and sound effects, used mostly to heighten the comedic drama in set pieces, were ably operated by Sonal Patel.

Nokise seemed pleased to be back in New Zealand, although he is returning to London shortly. Use this as an excuse to go and catch a comedian who could be the “next big thing”.