Seating for about 70 was arranged in the Fringe Bar, the location for a number of other Fest shows this year as well. All but 3-4 seats were taken on opening night by a crowd of largely 30-40s something in a reasonably intimate venue ideally suited to Daniel's style of comedy.
Smith is a fast growing a dedicated local following as one of the best up and comers on Wellington's comedy circuit. A reputation his previous awards underpin.
His humour is a mixture. His opening stanza on the idiosyncracies of his fellow office workers and an insightful segment on cats who believe humans are also cats which is why they bring their prey to the feet of their owners who seem unable to hunt effectively hit the spot. Having an anal probe in hospital (an experience quite a few in the audience related to) was yet another sequence which deservedly went down well. Yet several hours later the line that sticks still is one of his throw away lines “remember the days when people still bought houses.” It is a genuinely very, very clever and funny moment promising a relevant theme to expand on. But the moment all too quickly passes. However, further experience and no shortage of real skill will surely deliver many more of those moments. At least I would expect so from someone of his obvious comic talent.
Certainly Smith's word craft and seamless shifting from one theme to the next stands out for me as a real strength of this year's collection. Art Murmurs has previously rated him a comedy craftsman and I see nothing in his performances to refute that claim. Much of the louder laughter, (of which there was a lot) accompanied by hand over mouth in mock shock by some, centres around a rather extensive segment on sexuality. It is a theme which pervades much of his other material as well. However, making explicit fun of sex and bodily functions is par for the course with many comedians these days and Daniel's goes down well enough. Especially with the majority age demographic in his audience. While not possibly appealing to all his Wellington audiences his sexual material is funny in parts and still gets good audience reaction.
Also he generally pulls back from going that bit to far into the realm of cringe (sometimes nearly not). Yet this is another good skill to have and which is one he uses well. Using the full extent of his stage is also one of his fortes. So too is using audience members as integral to his humour but without putting them down or overdoing the fun at their expense. Not falling into this trap is just another sign of great comedy craftsmanship. And it is that craftsmanship which leaves the strongest impression with me, underscored by some moments of really clever humour, great pace and a willingness to take on those sacred cows.
This year others will perhaps find more delight in the detailed content and delivery and, as such,will likely respond accordingly loudly and constantly throughout his subsequent performances (as did more than a few on opening night).
Daniel John Smith is becoming a deserved fixture at Wellington's Comedy Fest and I for one would like to be there next time too in order to note just how much more he has evolved. His talent may be a work in progress. But that progress has already been substantial. So for those who have seen him in action before, or those who have yet to do so, this year's Fest provides the opportunity to check out those talents.
Daniel John Smith performs at the Fringe Bar, Allen Street nightly to Saturday 18 May at 7pm.
Book your tickets here.