I was impressed to find that the first two acts of the night were both women. Louise Beuvink covered tinder and relationships to scatterings of laughs from the large and varied crowd. She came across as slightly nervous but maybe only from the front row and a full review of her solo show can be found here. Urzila Carlson's set dealt with travelling and satisfyingly acknowledged her own experiences. Her jokes about weight and her accent-based material were some highlights that went down well with the crowd.
Jeremy Elwood covered all the classic stand up comedy material: Australians, customs, kids and millennials. Unsurprisingly (I'm 21) his jokes about how 'in the old days people actually had to be good at something to get famous' didn't sit well with me at all. The only point at which any of his material actually surprised me into a laugh was when he seemed to have run out of things to say and just asked the audience if there were any questions. Neil Thornton was a bit more of a breath of fresh air in his set about gayness, America and weight. The crowd was ready to laugh at Americans instead of Australians at this point and there was a comfortable level of laughter throughout his friendly set.
The set from Admiral Ackbar (Anya Tate-Manning) was a clear standout as the first act of the night that was anything other than straight stand-up. The phenomenal craftsmanship of the mask alone was enough to impress me. Ackbar presented a short set punctuated with musical numbers which unfortunately didn't land well at all. The repetition of 'yup yup yup' after each joke did throw off the timing but I think this was more of a 7 Days crowd than a BATS theatre/Star Wars crowd and the set wouldn't have landed even if the timing was impeccable.
Ackbar was interestingly followed by the other standout of the evening; Marcel Lucont (Alexis Dubus). He sits back and lets his laconic character rake in the laughs from the very beginning of the set, though I found his demand for continuing applause laboured, particularly for the last set of the long night. I responded well to his mixed media approach including signs and poetry and was positively gleeful when he shut down the longest running heckler of the night with an impeccably timed suggestion that he google himself... no... fuck himself. His game with the signs took up more of his set than the payoff warranted but his character is enjoyable enough to bear with through almost anything.
It's difficult to give any kind of summary for a round up of so many different comedians but in general the sets for the first two thirds were unremarkable, covering predictable stand up material in predictable ways. The theatricality in the last third of the show indicated the areas of comedy that I personally respond to and that I think are also worth exploring and developing in order to appeal to crowds that are increasingly less receptive to cheap, stale jokes than this one was. Finally, while it's nice that people were getting their money's worth, it seemed strange to me that a show that started 20 minutes late then also ended up being 2 hours rather than the advertised 90 minutes.
Next week's lineup will be different so it's worth checking out: http://www.comedyfestival.co.nz/find-a-show/best-of-the-fest/