After a bit of a late start, on account of the fact that there are a lot of seats to fill, the winner of Best NZ show at Comedy Fest and our MC Rhys Matthewson comes out to warm us up. As soon as he enters with his pure white mayo-inspired suit, he has us eating out the palm of his hand with his infectious energy and sharp timing. Justine Smith, last year’s MC and comedy legend, is the opening act. As she reminisces about previous shenanigans in Welly, she immediately has us in stitches trying to keep up with her quick wit. Her charm is effortless, making her the perfect act to kick off the night.
The acts that follow are excellent, from Hayley Sproull and her humper story that has every woman in the crowd losing their mind (the baffled looks from some of the men around me add to the hilarity), to Tom Sainsbury’s anecdotes from his school days. Each set is fresh and offers us something so unique each time a different comic steps onstage. Tony Lyall was a welcome addition to the line up, his outrageous storytelling and physical comedy making us simultaneously cringe with and at him - don’t get me started on the boardroom meeting. Guy Montgomery automatically wins us over with his awkward stage presence and slow but precise timing, making us lose it with a mere “I’ve been eating a lot of oats lately”.
When I’m seeing comedy galas that exceed 2 hours, I worry that the length of the show and the amount of acts might be hard to pay attention to, and there are points where I struggle to take in all the content. However, the diversity in content keeps us expecting the unexpected as we see anecdotes, sketches, physical comedy, and so much more throughout the night. We’re taken on a wild ride, with Rhys coming in every so often to bless us with his quick wit and not-so-quick stories.
A few acts fall a little short due to some technical mishaps, so we lose some of the jokes amongst the sound. This mostly affects Brynley Stent’s witty sketches and Two Hearts’ closing musical act, but despite this the comics push through and charm us regardless. With such an extensive line up, it’s hard to mention what I loved about each act, but I want to give special mention to Lana Walter’s email sign-off saga, and David Correos hilariously chaotic set - what a way to debut in the Best Foods Comedy Gala. Comedy greats such as Guy Williams and Kura Forrester also bless us with their kiwi humour that we know and love. It’s such a great night for comedy in Aotearoa.
Eli Matthewson, who has recently been on Dancing with the Stars, is the final stand up set of the night and he tells us all about his time on the show and the pitfalls of being given a name that can be up for artistic interpretation (I feel you Eli, I really do). Followed by Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore from Two Hearts, as mentioned earlier, who finish off the show with a bang. Having just finished off their tour, they crank out two of their greatest hits to send us off, their landlord worship song in particular being a huge hit with the crowd.
As we’re leaving the Michael Fowler Centre (and picking up our complimentary jar of mayonnaise of course), our cheeks and sides are aching from a long night of laughs. Be sure to buy tickets to next year’s Best Foods Comedy Gala, you don’t want to miss it!