Fringe Bar is more or less packed out for the opening night of one of Aotearoa’s best known and beloved comedians and podcasters. I’m also genuinely intrigued to see how a show about climate change will sit with a Wellington crowd. We are the only city in the country with a Green-endorsed Mayor. This means we’re likely to get the environmental jokes and be onboard with the climate message of the show, but will it also make us less likely to laugh at the climate crisis?
Batt’s show, which is at the end of a 4-city tour, has some real highlights and fun stories. Drug-induced sleep on an airplane and a mushroom-fuelled viewing of Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical are great anecdotes and highly entertaining. On their own, segments about weathermen, Elon Musk and Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown are also entertaining and honest. Unfortunately, the climate and leadership content en masse becomes less and less funny, and leans more into the territory of a Ted Talk. There’s a reason the Tedx format is 10-12 minute speeches. Too much truth can become overwhelming, and in this case increasingly difficult to laugh at.
Now, I have to be honest, my experience is significantly hampered by the audience around me near the back of the crowd. Two groups seated in front of me are restless, chatting and on their phones for much of the show. Combine this with the poor sightlines, trying to see past their constantly shifting seat position is frustrating and a full neck workout. So as my frustration at this builds, I also struggle to engage with the content of the show in the good humour with which it is intended. Part of me wonders whether these experiences are mutually exclusive, or whether the audience around me becoming disengaged with the content contributed to their disruptiveness? It’s hard to know.
Batt is an undeniably charming and smart performer. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of him on the telly and in lineup shows. For my taste, I just don’t think he’s got the balance of fun, and fact quite right in this stand-up hour.
His overarching message however is worthy of a comedy show devoted to it. He asserts eloquently and with passion that life is wonderful and we should all actively want to continue living. The reason to care about climate change is not that the world will end, it won’t. It will simply become unlivable for us, and we should do our best to avoid that eventuality because being alive is pretty great!
Given the earnest belief and power of that central message, I want this show to deserve its thesis. I want bigger laughs, shocking truths and for Batt to weave his climate change messaging into the everyday stories which provide the levity the show needs. I think this is what he’s aiming for, but hasn’t quite hit.
Is Climate Change Funny Yet? Is on at Fringe Bar until saturday. Tickets are available through the Comedy Festival Website.