Comedy Festival 2009
Reviewed by Kate Blackhurst

THREE KIWI women walk into a pub. No, it’s not a joke, but it is a great night of comedy. The Comediettes (Fringe Bar, May 19-23) are book-ended by Jim Stanton and Emma Olsen, with Sarah Harpur thrown into the middle for contrast. Both have a fairly dead-pan delivery and have managed to master the art of saying truly random statements with a straight face.

This is the fourth time I have seen Jim and each time she walks a fine and well-balanced line between jaded cynicism and fresh material. She is at her best with physical comedy and throughout her piece about reluctant dancing I could feel her pain.

Emma introduces herself as the ethnic quotient of the trio and proceeds to pull random images (literally in some cases, which I won’t spoil for you) from the air. She makes a virtue out of ignorance and her line about proving that anyone can get a degree from Victoria University these days is nicely judged.

Sarah bounds onto the stage like a delinquent sunbeam. High pitched and high voltage she delivers spite with a smile. Her grin is so infectious that she can dish out the insults and you will readily laugh at yourself. The songs she performs at the end of her set are hilarious and she has a pukkah hunch when to deliver the sucker-punch. She is the winner of the 2009 Raw Comedy Quest and on the basis of this set, I can see why.

The Comediettes do themselves a slight disservice with their underwear-strewn set backed with airbrushed pictures of themselves a-la Desperate Housewives. The flyers for discounts on shoes were well received by the women in the audience although I overheard some muttering from a couple of men thinking it was all going to be “girls’ stuff”. These women are anything but desperate and in fact radiate composure which promises bright things for the future of New Zealand comedy.

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THE PREMISE of Mickey D’s (Too Mickey, Bro!, San Francisco Bathhouse, May 19-23) act is that we should be able to laugh at anything and everything – I bet he doesn’t go down well in Afghanistan. Or Germany for that matter. Some of his material even seemed a little close to the bone for politically-correct-sensitive-souls-we-all-work-for-the-Government Wellington and there were some sharp intakes of breath at the Bathhouse.

Fortunately, these were matched by the splutterings of laughter that can’t be held back because it’s just funny. Laughing may be a sign of weakness in his native Australia, but it’s good for the heart and soul. He’s good at mocking Australians and their characteristics – partly pigeon but mostly lizard – which works well with his audience.

Aussie men and women are equally ridiculed, and his heckling father and extended family are not above being sacrificed for the sake of a good laugh. The differences between Aussies and Kiwis are illuminated through a few set scenes such as parties and tourism activities. As he says, Australians are just too Lleyton Hewitt for their own good.

Once he has the audience on side, he throws in a few more risqué gags; what not to say during sex, and some material about children with disabilities that has a few people looking anxious. He promises us that it’ll get funny in a minute and it does. There is a serious side to his comedy but then comedy and tragedy are the two-faced gods of drama and Mickey D is far too bright not to know this.

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I MAY BE ever so slightly in love with Danny Bhoy (The Opera House, May 21-23) – there, I’ve said it. He’s charming, intelligent, funny, good-looking, self-deprecating, and master of a fabulously lilting accent. ‘Bastard’ said my husband, but then he was laughing too. Danny Bhoy is simply impossible not to like.

His material is not exactly cutting edge. He talks about staying in hotels, trying to chat up girls (I refuse to believe he has any problem with that), making woefully bad first impressions, and trying to enunciate when drunk. It’s stuff we could all talk about, although nowhere near so well.

He holds his audience in the palm of his hand, knowing exactly when to press on and when to back off. He’s observational and conversational, and you could listen to him talk all night. Even though he’s been touring for the past four moths, I reckon he could do it too. Even the ‘hit and run hecklers’ couldn’t phase him, although I can only imagine what he will say about New Zealand when he gets back home.

He’s a bit hard on the Kiwi accent which isn’t entirely fair – we can’t all sound Scottish – but he’s aware that his imitation is poor. He’s not a mimic but he is a raconteur in the old classic style. He’ll be telling a story when he just shoots off on a tangent before coming back to the place he started and spinning us up in his intricate web. I’ll bet the long winter nights just fly by.