by Laura Ferguson
Easing further in, I discover an eclectic mix of decoration and people. CDs line to make a colourful backdrop and cassettes make up the foundation of the bar. Pinstripe business suits and casual Friday ties jovially converse with black skinny jeans and patchy Movember facial hair. Reddened lips smile around gin-and-tonic straws and I spot distinctive kinks upon long hair, people are literally letting their hair down tonight, ready to laugh, ready to be entertained.
I was lucky to be able to come at all tonight since it was sold out and my luck continues as I discover Happy Hour is not yet finished. Seating myself at the back, I wait for the show to begin, which it does alongside roving strobe lights and upbeat music.
We have Alexander Sparrow, Fat Comedy producer and character comedian extraordinaire, play our host for this evening. His self-deprecating humour reminds me why I admire and enjoy his work, he is charming, effusive and hilarious. He allows us to choose which joke he will perform, giving us two options to vote for. It’s like a choose-you-own-adventure collective of comedy. Do we want the religion joke or the dog joke? Dog, obviously being the answer we call out exuberantly for. Sparrow smiles cheekily, launching into a pun-tastic tale. Our host continues to warm up the room with crowd interaction, he makes valiant efforts with us, maintaining a light and humorous air. This is made more impressive considering some of the audience appear quite resistant to thawing out, Sparrow instead cheerily moving on with asides and quips that have us laughing and ready for the first half.
Fat Comedy comes to us in two parts with an intermission between. I am pleased to see a range of known talent mixed in among the new; three comedians for each half. The first offering, Mark O’Keefe, was a fresh face for me and his brand of Irish accented-wit is laced with banter and amusing comparisons between Ireland and New Zealand. Frankie Vallis follows him, bursting with hilarious observations and her clever risqué humour has me clutching myself as peals of laughter test the strength of my ribcage. Rob Harris rounded out the first half and I was glad to see this stalwart of Wellington comedy again. His broad Canadian accent jibes easily with the crowd and his twisting wordplay making me wheeze into my wineglass too boisterously. I laugh-splutter and a fellow comedy-goer performs a facepalmed-headshake at me.
It’s now the intermission, which brings with it an opportunity to purchase more beverages to embarrass myself with before Alexander Sparrow once again graces the stage. We get more entertaining choose-your-comedy stylings and audience interaction. He even hilariously calls me out as a reviewer, asking me to note down a compliment before he introduces Mike Fowler. I, of course, will not be swayed to say how quote-unquote “hilarious” and “brilliant” the audience finds Sparrow, though.
Moving onto another new act to me, Mike Fowler’s humour ranges from Harry Potter to hospitality. Anyone who has worked in customer service will find the observations of the latter hilarious and I find myself, eyes wide with truth, nodding vigorously to their relevance. The second act of the second half, Kris Beattie is the third novel experience of the night and I find his outsider take on Wellington culture amusing, his tongue-in-cheek delivery getting us to laugh at ourselves.
The headliner of the night is the ever-wonderful Neil Thornton. I haven’t seen Thornton perform since his Comedy Festival show and I can’t help but grin in anticipation with an excited little shimmy as Sparrow welcomes him to the stage. Thornton’s comedy is very angry-New York, but he crafts his work so that we are being entertained rather than berated. Really, it’s not so much anger as it is heated intensity. Thornton’s words are thoroughly impassioned, he creates a taut line of connection to his audience that has me leaning in avidly, ready to consume every sentence. I laugh uproariously at Thornton’s wide-ranging material. In a short space of time, we cover politics, homophobia, alcoholism, and unsolicited advice monkeys. And if you want to know what that last one is, be sure to catch him sometime, it is ridiculously funny.
Sparrow rounds out the show by thanking us and we applaud, grins lighting our faces, stomachs full from laughter. This was a fantastic way to end a long week of work. A fun, nostalgic space; a cheeky, uplifting host; and comedians primed to induce laughter made Fat Comedy an absolute winner for me. The first outing of this weekly show was sold out, so it’s best to get in quick if you wish to end your working week as gloriously as this. I already have my tickets for next time to see co-producer Bas Jeffrey host this time. Maybe see you there!
Fat Comedy is on every Friday in Fat Angel at 6.30pm. Tickets can be found here.