As the performers explain in the opening scene of the show, they’ve been cancelled “in the woke way” – because they’re two straight white dudes daring to enter a comedy show into the NZ Fringe. They heard via Twitter, of course.
Over the next hour, Will and Brendan perform over 20 sketches, most of them only a couple minutes long. There are poo jokes, repeat costumes and quite often, one last ba-dum tish line before the lights go down.
But the main throughline of their show is a concern with wokeness and cancel culture. Obviously – they signal the theme in their title. It’s a move that, to be honest, irritates me a bit because it reads as a dog whistle rather than anything clever. Remember when every comedy edgelord in New Zealand got wind of the word ‘triggered’?
As a result, I was expecting dumb white male comedy that wilfully misunderstands its own privilege. There was a bit of that, like the long sketch where Brendan tries to thread together a joke about a man who walks into a bar and ends up with simply “an amorphous bag of organs exists” because Will deems all descriptions of people too risky for the SJW crowd. It’s a dated joke that punches down on the labels queer folk and people of colour must give themselves in a world that understands everything as homogenously white, straight and cis.
However, there are other sketches where Will and Brendan question what they’re doing. They chat about how they’re taking the space of more diverse performers and how this whole thing is so self-indulgent anyway. I mean, true, but you could do more than just point at your own anxiety.
The most successful parts of the show are when Will and Brendan either make fun of their white male brethren (punching up!) or when they step away from wokeness altogether. The highlight of the show is a rippingly funny sketch set in the Prime Minister’s Office that skewers the Labour party’s inaction on big projects over the past three years. Ugh, it was so good. This public servant is THIRSTY for more political comedy. Please!
Will and Brendan are Cancelled is a confident, polished comedy show best for, er, normies. More of their sketches are hits than misses, and these boys slot nicely into the easy-to-watch, charming brand of comedy that New Zealanders love.