Comedy Festival 2008, The Classic
May 7-10 | Reviewed by Jacob Powell

TOUTED in his comedy fest bio (and his intro this evening) as a Billy T Award nominee I was interested in what this relatively new face had to offer. Grant’s material started with his origins in Christchurch and a few observances about some boring facets of life down there, like how skateboarding isn’t so interesting when the terrain is flat. Really flat. That skateboarding in this environment consists mostly of pushing yourself along slowly getting tired until you’ve had enough and end up taking a bus and carrying your board under your arm. Many of his jokes and sketches employ a reasonable use of physical comedy – in this case the action of his leg pushing a skateboard along united with his bored/tired facials. He also talked about his background as a baker which required him to do 7000 hours of work during his apprenticeship that only took him about 30mins in total to learn. So that was one hour of novelty followed by 6999 hours of slowly increasing boredom. This was also accompanied by mimed bread shaping actions; a different one for each of several different bread styles – some French sticks followed by a Vienna loaf or two. Another physical piece (which unfortunately fell flat on this night) was his impersonation of “A man going down on himself”. Cleverly turning expectations of fellatial contortions on their head (*snigger*) he instead performed the action of a man deflating like a tyre, and did a really nice job of it too! A pity that the audience wasn’t in the flow on that one as I thought it was pretty flash.

I think it’s fair to say that Grant’s material is a bit of a mixed bag: some of it obviously good, some with potential, and some just a bit poor and misjudged. On another night the routine might have come together a bit better for him but unfortunately this night was filled nervous silences aplenty with smatterings of laughter here and there that never really swelled enough to carry the show. A shame really as Grant does seem to have a good base of material to work from but possibly his own nerves and the lower quality of some of his filler pieces got the better of him. That said, aside from a few awkward moments the evening remained reasonably enjoyable.

Material that shined for me was a poetry section where the lights turned down and Lobban affected a faux Sam-Hunt-meets-Euro-lefty-intellectual persona and read poems entitled Snow (birthed from an experience in the humid jungle), Trees (in the Arabian desert) – you get the picture – and finally Receipt: a beautiful reading of a $2 shop receipt including the EFTPOS serial number and finishing with the simple line “Declined”. Not everyone’s cup of tea (a friend hated it) but I found it clever and well delivered. The other highlight for me was his skit about smoking becoming an Olympic sport complete with recorded background sports commentary – nicely observed.

I think the audience being populated by people barely out of their teens didn’t do Grant any favours, with a line from his routine referring to Fantasy Island not raising recognition in most and even his reasonably witty Star Wars reference sailing over the top of 95% of the young crowd. It was good to see at least a couple of other more seasoned local comedians there in support – notably Te Radar down the back of the room. This kind of collegiality will surely help newer performers (like Grant) to overcome shows that go the way this one did and keep them working on their act until they gain the necessary confidence and develop their personal style to a point where they performing from a place of strength.

I would like to see Grant gig in front of a more conducive audience and also see him tighten up his routine some as I think he could consistently pull out a pretty decent show and keep the audience laughing throughout. Unfortunately on this night it was not to be.