Every year one of my favourite shows at the NZ International Comedy Festival is the Raw Comedy Quest which presents 11 of the most promising upcoming comedians to the NZ stand up comedy scene. Selected from over 100 applicants from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, the final presents some of the freshest talents that could one day be festival headliners.
This year’s compère for the night was the brilliant Hal Cruttenden an absolute joy to watch and no stranger to comedy competition as he was nominated for the prestigious Perrier Newcomer Award in Edinburgh back in 2002.
Each newcomer had six minutes to impress the three judges with their comedic repertoire and it was refreshing to see an almost even male to female balance in the acts. After nerves getting the best of a couple of contestants, and one contender coming on stage dressed as a shark, the standouts for us were Ray Shipley, Emma Wollum, and Steven Lyons.
Shipley, who got the highly commended by the judges on the night, brought slightly darker humour with some solid material that was delivered well. The runner-up was the very talented Emma Wollum, who brought us a politically charged well-structured material that showcased her amazing voice and accordion skills. The winner of The Raw Comedy Quest 2017 went to the quietly spoken ukulele wielding 18-year-old Ruby Esther. She delivered a strong concept and some very good timing and will perform at the festivals swan song Last Laughs on Sunday as part of her prize. However, we have to end with an honourable mention to Steven Lyons who we thought was also deserving of an accolade as he hit us with quick-fire puns, well-written material and ended with some impressive impressions used to brilliant comedic effect.
Overall it’s pleasing to see new talent coming through and the NZ stand-up scene thriving.
Get your tickets for Last Laughs here.