The Flick Electric Co. Comedy Gala is always a night to remember and one of the best ways to sort your festival schedule by getting some bite-sized sets from a plethora of recognisable local acts and big name internationals performing at the festival. Our MC for the night was Urzila Carlson, the first of twenty-two comedians performing at the Gala and a local favourite. She makes us feel comfortable as we settle in for a nearly 3-hour marathon of laughter.
First up on the bill is international heavy-hitter Zoe Lyons. It’s nice to see a few more female performers than in recent years though they are still the minority. Lyons was an excellent way to start the night with her jokes about whale conversational habits tickling the audience.
Next up is the first of our local acts, Brendhan Lovegrove. He joins a Kiwi line-up that includes Ben Hurley, Nick Rado, Rose Matafeo, Guy Williams and Melanie Bracewell seeing that our country is well-represented throughout the night.
Then we saw the first of the big-name drawcards of the fest, Irishman Ed Byrne. Byrne is an instantly recognizable face with over 20 years in the stand-up game and has visited our shores on a number of occasions. His effortless stage presence and anecdotal style make him one of the more memorable performers of this busy stage.
Romesh Ranganathan, another international headlining act at the festival is a TV regular in the UK and delivers a smart and witty set. Another Brit, Lou Sanders, has very impressive writing and performing credentials but didn’t entirely win over the audience during her four minutes.
Ismo Leikola, perhaps the only comedian in the line-up for whom English is a second language, was instantly one of my and the crowd’s favourites from the night. His simple, thought-provoking jokes about the intricacies of the English language are as endearing as they are hilarious. He was a huge hit at last year’s festival and he’s only performing one show this year so I urge you to get your tickets booked ASAP.
Other highlights from the UK were Scottish comic Daniel Sloss whose performance sticks to the ‘traditional’ stand-up; no music, no gimmicks, no anecdotes – just good jokes and I think an hour in his company would be well worth your time and money. Then there was the very camp and very English, Hal Cruttenden who had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand for his set and I found him a delight to watch. British cult comic and panel show regular, Paul Foot, quickly became my favourite act of the evening. Jumping and leaping around the stage, Foot hilariously riffs on how one must compliment any baker on the moistness of their cakes. He too is only performing one show in Auckland so go go go go!
Australians too were well represented on the night. While I was slightly disappointed with Nazeem Hussain’s set, I loved Joel Creasey’s stage presence and clever take-down of hipsters. Rhys Nicholson was also memorable due to both his sparkly blazer and abrasive, unapologetic attitude.
The gala also featured a handful of group performers; Australian sketch comedians Aunty Donna closed the first-half of the night with a loud and truly bizarre segment. Part musical, part dance routine made me intrigued to see their full-length show. The Fan Brigade, a musical-comedy duo sang about how much they hate cricket and their charming presence won over the crowd instantly. And Kiwi sketch trio Frickin Dangerous Bro, (Pax Assadi, Jemaine Ross and James Roque) were very likable and demonstrated great talent for improvisation as they performed a clever and confronting high school scene taking aim at stereotypes.
American comic Tony Woods closed the evening but his laidback approach and controversial subject matters didn’t seem to go across with the gala audience overly well. However, the last act of the night is a tough gig on a possibly laughter tired audience.
The Flick Electric Co. Comedy Gala is still the best way to get exposure to a wide-range of performers both homegrown and international. If you’ve not booked your tickets to the NZ International Comedy Festival yet tune into TV3 9.45 Friday 28 April for a great taster menu of what’s on offer.
Reviewed by Stewart Sowman-Lund.