The Raw Comedy Quest is one way a budding comedian can launch themselves into the world of professional comedy in New Zealand. And it is fantastic fun to watch.
Stand up comedy is a bit like a popularity contest. You can succeed even if you’re not funny just because you’re nice. And often the arrogant jocks are the best. Developing a stand up ‘persona’ is a delicate and slow burning process and the Comedy Quest is the perfect place to test and hone them. The ‘Heats’ stage sees a mixed bag of performers stand up in front of an audience for six minutes, competing for a spot in the Wellington Finals (April 26, San Francisco Bathhouse) and hopefully onto the national finals. There is always a risk for an audience member at an open mic night. The nervous debutant comedian’s first task is to put their audience at ease, and, if this doesn’t happen shit gets awkward. Luckily (in the third heats, at least) all comedians were confident and entertaining.
This evening opened with Holly Gooch, a charming and softly spoken professional storyteller who took a great joy in the mundanities of life. Musings on how meditation can change your outlook and the range of things we can get ‘on a stick’ these days were particularly joyful. Shaun Piercy was an articulate, witty, and delightfully pompous performer who fought the good fight for rotund people. His ‘Fat Flyers Scheme’ is actually not a bad idea. Vitale Joseph struggled with nerves, and worked hard to squeeze every joke possible out of pornography. Vitale endeared himself to his audience, however, and showed an astute professionalism by acknowledging any jokes that fell flat in a self deprecating way. Jez Brown satisfied the pants off all Labour voters in the room with a side-splitting fantasy routine of what goes on in the National Party Cabinet meetings. While initially not particularly topical (he had a focus on the 2011 election), his stage persona and intelligent routine stood out. He did, however, descend into a rather surreal routine about different ways to incorporate iPads into sex.
After the interval we meet the evening’s clear highlight, Jen O’Sullivan. A refreshing realist, Jen discussed the relative merits of being a Wellington C-list celebrity with an ease and confidence that suggests a bright future. Next up was Ezra Keddell, channelling the straight talking Kiwi bloke. His calmly sardonic views on social media were unsurprising but well appreciated comedic fare. Bevan McCabe is a compelling character; while clearly nervous, he had a confused and wandering style of storytelling that, with some honing, could become really hilarious.
Finally this evening was Alex Brookes, who attempted to play the game of “I’m really young and shouldn’t be swearing but I am, so it’s funny.” He failed, and came off as really rather vulgar and unpleasant. Admittedly, his adopted style of ‘shock’ comedy is a minefield. He took a gamble and blew up.
As with any open comedy competition, creating an atmosphere of support is paramount, and MC Jerome Chandrahasen succeeds at keeping the audience at bay and giggling in between acts. Judges Christine Brooks, Brianne Kerr and Cameron Murray make the inevitable judgement at the end, and Holly, Jen, Jez and Shaun make it through to the semis. With the exception of Brookes, the evening was a shining testament to the growing comedy industry in New Zealand.