REVIEWED BY STEPH BEAN
The NZ International Comedy Festival’s first Late & Live at The Classic began last night as Markus Birdman arrived onstage as our MC. He warned us about the upcoming use of strong language and encouraging us to be more creative with our own expletives. Birdman’s energetic and quick-fire performance was just what the crowd needed to get warmed up for the smorgasbord of local and international comedy talent that followed.
The first act out was Billy T nominee Pax Assadi, a South Auckland newlywed whose jokes about race and the challenges of being Arab in Auckland were refreshing and hilarious. Pax is obviously a very clever accent mimic and won the crowd over with his impressions of his Mangere homies. He was followed by Australia’s Luke Heggie, whose deadpan delivery of one-liner jokes meant it took a while to warm to him. I was afraid the whole set would turn out to be a string of puncline-type jokes, however after a few minutes he seemed to gain the crowd’s support as his stories developed a bit of depth and became more relatable.
Markus Birdman was the MC for the evening.
After the break and some relationship advice (if it can be called that) from Birdman, NZ favourite Jesse Griffin aka Wilson Dixon made for a nice change of pace. His relaxed and meandering storytelling style was easy to watch and enjoy. His Southern accent and use of the guitar adding to this and giving his set a sitting-round-the-campfire sort of feel. Dixon rounded off his set with a song about his sister Darlene, imaginatively titled ‘Darlene’. No doubt soon to be this year’s number 1 on the Country and Western charts.
Next was James Acaster, the conservative Brit who veered away from his material quickly when a woman in the crowd yelled out that he looked like Bill Gates. Acaster, obviously keen to make the most of this outspoken (and drunken) heckler, brilliantly interacted with her and other audience members right until the end of his set. If that was what he’s like unscripted then I’m definitely keen to see what he can deliver when working off his own material.
The evening was rounded off by all-round funny guy Andrew Bird who had a great energy as he described life with his Slovakian wife and their new baby, or ‘pet human’ as he called him. A thoroughly entertaining watch, his jokes were delivered with great gusto and seemed to roll smoothly into one another. The perfect closing act to an evening of hilarity.
Late & Live will be on at The Classic Wed 1 – Sat 04 May, Wed 8 – Sat 11 May, Wed 15 – Sat 18 May, 10pm during NZ International Comedy Festival with a various line-ups.