White Man Behind A Desk:Live – satire and silliness at Q Theatre

Robbie Nicol is a White Man Behind A Desk (WMBAD), winner of ‘Best Newcomer – Wellington’ at this year’s NZ International Comedy Festival and whose original home on YouTube now has over 7k subscribers. You’ve probably seen some clips of his monologues doing the rounds on Facebook, but this is WMBAD live and on tour. The perfectly pitched satirical show has become a full blown theatrical experience and it has arrived in Auckland amidst Election fever. Last night saw the first National MP, Nikki Kaye, to join WMBAD on stage at Q Theatre’s Loft.

The show begins with a pre-recorded musical number projected on a big screen. The song, performed by Nicol, addresses our choice to live in an echo chamber, never discussing and looking at political ideas or ideology that don’t match our own. Following a slapstick entrance from the WMBAD, we were off.

The show consisted of audience participation, interview and two monologues; the first of which was about voting and the importance of getting involved – even if you do get it wrong. The second tackled the more sensitive topic of the rise of Nazi ideology and the alt-right.This is where Nicol really shines, making him deserving of the nickname the ‘Kiwi John Oliver’. His monologues are flawlessly delivered as he conveys his balanced rhetoric while managing to not anger the voting commission or too many Nazis.

When it’s announced that the first guest, economist Bruce John Ross, is running late, a replacement is needed and fast. Luckily RT Hon Nikki Kaye, Minister of Education, just happened to be in the audience. WMBAD interviews Kaye regarding National’s stance on linear learning in education, with Kaye replying in the usual politician way; her answers seeming as rehearsed as the other performances in the room. Things were getting serious, so in order not to ‘scare off the millennials’ WMBAD resorts to his ‘Jimmy Fallon bit’ which transpires to be a hilarious game of Pictionary.

I’d have liked WMBAD to have pushed Kaye a little more on the idea that all children should be judged and tested on an out dated 19th-century linear system but I guess we’ll have the TV debates for that. I also found it odd that she left before the end of the show; her empty seat didn’t go unnoticed by those on stage. 

Co-writer and performer, Finnius Teppett, works brilliantly alongside Nicol’s hyperactive ‘White Man’ who is like a young excitable puppy who’s chew-toy is political debate. There is a well-structured narrative to the show that feels totally fluid and it’s interspersed with ad-libs with the audience and guests. Playing the type of idiot only a very smart person could play, the self-proclaimed Jon Stewart fan, Robbie Nicol, is simply brilliant at supplying political analysis with a side of comedic buffoonery. Full of mishaps and hilarity, WMBAD Live is part theatrical farce and part satirical talk show.

White Man Behind A Desk: Live is running at Q Theatre’s Loft from 29 August until 2 September.