Comedy Festival 2008, The Transmission Room
May 8-10 | Reviewed by Darren Bevan

WHEN A TRIO come out on stage, synchronised to the sound of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and start dancing before adapting their moves into the Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’ complete with whooping and hollering from the crowd, you have to wonder what you’re about to see. Clearly I was unprepared for what followed – and I have to say, somewhat underwhelmed.

Thrice Pudding consists of three comedians who had various pedigrees – Clayton, Hiroshi and Keith – but who never really seemed to have the right mix on stage. After the initial dancing, Clayton first took the stage (still out of breath from the dancing) with material covering recording equipment in his bag at U2’s recent concert (a corny number which saw him pull an orchestral recorder out of his bag to the audience’s bemusement), his dad’s insistence on using old names for things like Gaul, Troy, and pieces which played on the absurdism of linguistics from our weather readers. He had some okayish material – my favourite was about what songs he will sing to his kids and how the classics of our age just don’t measure up to the songs sung to us by our fathers which was demonstrated by his singing of a Puff Daddy favourite to his imaginary child. But I was rather put off by the fact he seemed to be playing to the audience which appeared to consist of family and friends and was disappointed to see him shout to the whole crowd “Clap me” in an attempt to get some recognition, rather than let the material garner his applause.

But nothing could prepare me for Hiroshi, described on his MySpace site as a “cheesy yet philosophical style brings a gush of stupidity into the intellectual Asian comedy scene in New Zealand. He is a must-see “fresh off the boat”.

Actually he wasn’t – starting with a bad line about how many confused him with Hiroshima, saying he “was the bomb”, the audience didn’t quite know how to take him as he rumbled through some creaky material about racial stereotyping (“Is it me or is Pak’n’Save an immigrant store – it’s like Disney World to me”) which no one seemed to take to. Nervous laughter, silences and questions like “Did you see me on TV last year” littered the act but there was nothing but resolute awkwardness from the crowd. Mind you that wasn’t helped by a reference to a film which he clearly hadn’t seen and the choice to ignore the audience who tried to help him out proved to be the final nail in his coffin. But for me, the last straw came when he resorted to one of the worst Bruce Lee jokes I’ve ever heard, and I was left scratching my head about how he could have won the RAW Comedy Quest award a few years back. Though to be fair, a final joke about Kiwis, Russians, Cubans and Asians did make me laugh and think Hiroshi had been a missed opportunity to write some stronger material which could have bowled me over.

And by the time the third act came on stage, I was hoping for a swift end to the show. Thankfully though, Keith Paterson managed to pull it out of the bag and used his nervousness and self-confessed geeky persona to his benefit. His material consisted of how he “was a dick” and that’s why everyone hated him. He used some smart language and humour to win over the audience – even if they didn’t want to join in straight away, he played to that – saying he “liked to make the audience laugh one member at a time” and even rolled out the violin to hilarious effect. Routines on Horny Vivaldi, Harry Potter drinking song (“Vodka”) threw to mind an English comic, Jim Tavare, and I thought Keith was pretty on the mark there.

All in all, the Thrice Pudding gang would benefit from a comic mentor who could get rid of this urge to be clapped and recognised as people rather than comics; some stronger material would also help – maybe the fact they’re a trio could see them interact well together (think the League of Gentlemen, the Goons) as comic troupes are thin on the ground – the show for me, just left me frustrated and with the feeling I hadn’t quite laughed as much as I could.