The first act, Darryl Wilson, is introduced by Cho as Wellington’s favourite Kookabura. He saunters on stage, and leisurely makes his way through his one-liner-esque jokes, firing them out in quick succession, without ever breaking his lackadaisical tone. He’s clearly confident in this low energy style and lulls me into a sense of routine. His humour is vulgar, playing around with subjects of deteriorating underwear and Tinder bios. About a third of his gags land, but he’s quickly onto the next one before I have time to think too hard about any of the whiffs.
Then we get a particularly shocking double. In a list of synonyms for Jizz-Rag, Wilson lists off a variety of things, including (in quick succession) Paris Hilton, and Heath Ledger’s smile. My plus one and I snap out of our middling-comedy-coma and stare at each other. Sorry? Comedy can be offensive, that’s fine. Wilson has the right to make these jokes, and I have the right to go on a tangent about how they’re wildly miscalibrated and not funny. They would’ve still been bad-tasting and a little foul twenty years ago, but at least they’d have some form of cultural relevance. Paris Hilton has kept a fairly low profile for the past decade, writing her memoir and DJing for the rich and famous. Gone are the days of her being a common target for the low-hanging-fruit of celebrity-slut-shaming. I’ve spent the past day trying to figure out how he even got to Heath Ledger as an option. Brokeback Mountain? The Joker, streaking liquids across his lips? When you’re reaching to get to your hyper-bad-taste conclusion, what’s the point of even braving it in the first place? To Wilson’s credit, he pushes the list of Jizz Rag names towards me at the end of the gag, and asks me to burn them. Happily, Darryl. Happily.
Semi Cho returns to the stage, and gets Darryl to guess the identity of a taxidermied animal concealed by a sheet. Some light observational comedy comes from him feeling his way across the animal, but the fact that the sheet barely conceals anything and all those involved know that it’s a chicken drains most of the tension from the farce.
After a short intermission, we’re passed over to our second opener, Michael Macaulay . Macaulay is originally from England, and has spent the past decade living in Paraparaumu. He is a breath of fresh air, and the highlight of the night. Before he begins his set, he makes his way over to my plus one and I who are sitting in the front row, and asks if we’re okay with audience interaction. Applause to Michael for this. It’s respectful, and keeps us both feeling super comfortable when he calls on us in his set. I won’t lie, Macaulay’s hit rate isn’t much better than Wilson’s in terms of landing gags. But again, he’s trying new material, some of which is AI generated (topical), and his warm-cheeky-Dad energy makes it a pleasure to help him figure out what’s funny, and what’s not. I have huge respect for the grace in which he handles things when his huge end of set closing joke completely whooshes the room, and doesn’t even get a giggle. He notices that it hasn’t landed before we even realise it was a joke, wraps things up, and exits on a high.
Cho returns to the stage and repeats the guess-the-taxidermy gag with McCaulay, to similarly mixed results. McCaulay picks the animal up at the end, playing to the back of the room, and showing that he knows his way around a crowd. It’s now time for Cho, the headliner, to do her set and… It’s okay? Cho is a charming personality. She has a warm, infectious energy, and is able to emotionally connect quickly with the audience, through sincere and emotionally revealing anecdotes. While my late night online shopping benders have never resulted in the purchase of a stuffed Toucan, I connect to the mindset. What she struggles with, is keeping a sense of flow and structure to her set. Often jokes will blur together, with her starting another set-up before we realise she’s said the punchline. It makes the whole set feel fairly homogenous, and while she has some great lines, I have to work very hard as an audience member to pull them out of the fog.
I imagine this experience was invaluable to all three comedians, who I’m sure will be able to take the wins and losses of the night and build some great, polished, sets out of them. These weren’t that, but they were never promised as such. I do wish I’d got some insight into the mindset of the taxidermally obsessed, and that a certain Australian-Oscar-Winner could’ve been left in peace, but it is what it is. I laughed a good bit, Get Stuffed is perfectly okay.