Here’s the thing: when you have a line up of five young promising comedians, in a show compered by another young promising comedian, and finished off with a previous winner of the competition for young promising comedians, you’re bound to get a lot of hits – but also plenty of misses. Such was the vibe at the Billy T Jams this year, showcasing some of New Zealand’s up-and-coming kings and queens of laughs.
The good news is there was some downright excellent comedy. MC for the evening, 2014 Billy T winner Guy Montgomery, who was an absolute standout and had the audience eating out of his hand from start to finish. He kept the pace of the evening moving perfectly, and his sense of comic timing and how far he could push each gag was executed brilliantly; such a great choice to compere the evening.
The third act of the lineup, Matt Stellingwerf, was also brilliant. His 20 minute slot flowed with an ease of someone who really works their comedy craft; taking us through topical issues such as the flag debate, kiwis’ adoration of the All Blacks and the idea of changing the national anthem in quick succession. He was the highlight of the nominees and someone you would happily pay to go and see a full hour set of stand up.
His contemporaries were less successful in their execution overall, although every single act drew, at least, a few belly laughs from the crowd. James Malcolm was the show opener; while his cutesy coming out tales had their own charm, the whole act felt relatively one-note.
Laura Daniel did a fantastic job with the most physical comedy of the whole ensemble. There was a definite slickness to her use of music and props and riffed off the ‘women aren’t as funny as dudes’ cliché to excellent effect. Her expressive face and total lack of self-consciousness on stage were fantastic.
David Correos had some giggles at his portrayals of life growing up in Filipino culture, although probably relied a little too heavily on the cultural clichés and exaggerated accents of his homeland to really master his piece. He tended to be a little shouty in his delivery but was charming with it.
Alice Brine as the final act certainly brought high energy to the stage, though unfortunately almost to the detriment of her act, with her monologue tripping over itself in her haste to spill forth the jokes. She walked a fine line between risqué and downright crude with some, but not total, success.
The surprising disappointment of the evening was the very last act to come on stage, last year’s winner Hamish Parkinson. With his slurry vernacular he stretched out gags that the audience just weren’t buying for way too long, he struggled to draw the laughs throughout his set. It was something of a relief to have MC Montgomery sashay back on stage to wrap things up.
With a hugely varied lineup and some genuinely promising comedy from those who graced the stage, the Billy T nominees will all be performing a 1-hour solo shows during the 2016 NZ Comedy Festival. While undoubtedly some need plenty more polish than others, it’s great to see the beginnings of some bright careers up on stage.
Reviewed by Natalie Ridler.