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A comedic encore


Comedic minstrel Tim Minchin is set to raise the roof at the Christchurch Town Hall on Friday June 25 with his special brand of entertainment. A singing satirist, Minchin is widely known for his unique style, blending comedy, acting and singing into a lively performance, using all his own material.

 

 

English born and Australian raised, Minchin started touring New Zealand in 2019, until the Covid-19 pandemic knocked it on the head.

“This is the encore to that tour. and I’m especially thrilled to be coming to Christchurch. I hear a lot about it from others, about the rebuild, the amenities such as the town hall, and the people.

“My hope is that people in Christchurch are just as excited to come and see and hear me, to laugh and cry, and enjoy.”

Minchin is not your standard frontman. He talks a lot more than the average musician, sings his own songs, recites his own poetry and opens up about life in the real world.

The 2019 tour was his first for eight years, before which time he dedicated himself more to song writing, composing music and stage shows such as the 2010 hit Matilda the Musical for which he wrote the music and lyrics.

On stage now, he’s into anecdotal recitations, stand-up comedy and singing.

“In the old days, I would write about my anxieties, about what frustrated me,” he says. “Now it’s tending to be about more slice of life, songs about what happens around me, about cheese, public shaming, critical rather than political statements.”

He still includes some of his old comedy favourites in his shows, but now also new songs that he describes as “heavy” and that tell a story. “There’s quite a few songs off my new album, some angrier than usual.”

He describes his act as a “funny cabaret show” and sees himself primarily as a musician and songwriter as opposed to a comedian. “My songs just happen to be funny.”

Explaining the ethos behind his singular style, he previously said: “I’m a good musician for a comedian and I’m a good comedian for a musician but if I had to do any of them in isolation I dunno!”

On stage he cuts a distinctive figure, typically barefoot with wild hair and heavy eye makeup, often juxtaposed with a suit and tails, and a grand piano. Shedding his footwear makes him feel more comfortable, while his eye make-up helps to emphasise his features, gestures and expressions to audiences.

Much of his look and persona is about “treading that line between mocking yourself and wanting to be an iconic figure. Mocking the ridiculousness and completely unrealistic dream of being an iconic figure.”

Did you know…

  • Minchin started learning piano aged eight but gave it up after three years. He started again after he began writing music with his brother, guitarist Dan Minchin.
  • He has performed live comedy internationally, and appeared on television in Australia, Britain, and the United States
  • Minchin was educated at Christ Church Grammar School in Perth
  • He attended the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts before moving to Melbourne in 2002
  • His show Darkside launched him into the public eye, achieving critical success at the 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival
  • In 2013, Minchin played the role of rock star Atticus Fetch on Showtime’s Californication
  • A documentary film about him, Rock N Roll Nerd, was released theatrically in 2008 and broadcast by ABC1 in 2009.
  • In 2013, the University of Western Australia awarded Minchin an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree for his contribution to the arts
  • In 2015, he was awarded a second honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
  • Minchin was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2020.

 

Comedy’s universal appeal


He’s behind some of the most significant television comedy writing of the 21st century, and now Ben Elton is bringing his stand-up to Christchurch. Metropol catches up with the talented Brit behind Blackadder, We Will Rock You and so much more.

 

 

To take a look at Ben Elton’s multi-award winning body of work is to take a look at some of the most well-loved and revolutionary TV series in the last 40 years. Add to that 17 novels, film, musicals, radio, plays, stand-up comedy shows and more, and it’s hard to fathom how the 61-year-old over achiever can find the time to wear so many successful hats.

“Well I’m a writer first and foremost. Being a comedian is a part of that,” he explains.

It’s his stand-up comedy hat that Elton will adorn when he graces the stage of Christchurch’s James Hay Theatre on May 14 and 15. His tour was originally planned for May 2020 but Covid-19 forced a 12 month delay. This has afforded Elton the luxury of adding 14 more tour dates around the country, allowing him to reach an audience who may not have made it to the larger cities.

“I thought bugger it, if I’m doing two weeks in a Holiday Inn staring at the trouser press I’m going to make the most of this tour. I’m going to see more of this incredible natural environment, visit towns I’ve never been to before and play to people I wouldn’t normally get the chance to entertain. I’m really excited about it,” he says.

In spite of his tour being delayed, not even a pandemic can stop this comedic juggernaut from adding to his lengthy resume.

“As a writer I have at least been able to continue to work. I wrote an Upstart Crow Christmas special for the BBC with Shakespeare in lockdown (they closed the theatres in his day too).

Also I’ve been working on the screenplay for a new Bee Gees biopic.”

When asked if the pandemic opened the doors for new material, Elton seemed reluctant to drag people through turbulent times again.

“I had the new routine in great shape after doing 90 dates in the UK and Ireland but of course that was pre-Covid so I will certainly be going through it all so that it’s bang up-to-date in our weird new reality. I’m not doing a lot of Covid material though. I think we’re all pretty f’ing over it,” he muses.

I wondered whether audiences are even more thirsty than usual for good comedy due to the added stresses of recent times. Elton laughs, “Ha! People always need comedy and I’m excited to be getting the chance to spread a bit of laughter.”

I first encountered Elton’s work in the mid-eighties with The Young Ones, a show I can almost quote word-for-word. Elton co-wrote the series and was surrounded by comedic geniuses like Alexei Sayle and the late Rik Mayall, but you need to look further back for comics who have influenced his style.

“My favourite comics when I was a kid were Morecambe and Wise. [Monty] Python hit in 1969 when I was 10 and changed comedy forever,” he says.

“But I think my greatest influence was the comic novelist PG Wodehouse, I think I learned more about comic timing from his stories than I ever did from an actual comedian!”

Elton spends his time living between Perth and East Sussex, and when asked if living there and being married to an Australian makes appealing to Kiwi audiences any easier, he explains that comedy is universal.

“I never try to please some imagined audience, I only try to please myself and hope it clicks. I did that when writing The Young Ones and Blackadder, and still do today.

“I write about our shared human experience. Of course there are always local nuances and they are fun to play with, but basically if the act lands in Canterbury, UK I’m guessing most of it will land in Canterbury, NZ. It had better do!”


 

Lighting up the dark


In times of darkness we all just need to have a good laugh, says South African-Kiwi Urzila Carlson. And the multi award-winning comedian is certainly up to delivering on that brief. She speaks to Metropol about how humour can get us through.

 

 

From her Sydney hotel room on the last day of her mandated isolation, Urzila Carlson is typically hilarious – and busy.

Her two-week stay in a sunless room saw her continue her regular appearances on Australian, New Zealand and South African television, as well as, “podcasts, heaps of podcasts”.

She maintained her regular panellist slot on comedy show Have You Been Paying Attention? Australia and New Zealand, as well as conducting radio, television and podcast interviews.

These interviews centred around her upcoming rescheduled New Zealand tour and the success of her recent hour-long Netflix comedy special, Overqualified Loser.

Her feature on the global streaming platform makes her the first Kiwi to get a coveted hour-long special, a format known for featuring the trade’s biggest names (Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler) while launching lesser-known names into the spotlight (like Australian Hannah Gadsby), too.

“I was blown away when they offered it to me,” Urzila says.

“I did the 30-minute one [Comedians Around the World] then thought, ‘that’s it, I’m happy with that’, but then when they gave me the hour…wow. It’s such a good way and platform to open up comedy to the world.”

Not that Urzila necessarily needs to be introduced to the world.

Since first stepping on the stage in 2008, she has won the NZ Comedy Guild’s Best Female Comedian award six times as well as the coveted People’s Choice Award at the NZ International Comedy Festival two years in a row.

She has won the Sydney Comedy Festival’s Director’s Choice Award, was a nominee for Australia’s Helpmann Award for Best Comedy Performer in 2018, and has sold out seasons in London, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch.

But undeniably, the show will introduce her to a new horde of fans.

“No matter where you go, people ask you, ‘do you prefer English or American comedy?’, and I’m like, ‘you realise there’s other regions?’.”

And in her experience, audiences don’t discriminate. When performing in Hong Kong and Singapore recently, she had sold out shows with predominantly local attendants.
“People just enjoy comedy.”

And it’s this philosophy she believes will see us all through the current uncertainty of Covid-19.

“My job is, when people have had a rough week, they can have a laugh. People just want to go out and have a laugh, they don’t want to be reminded of what’s going on – it’s not a news broadcast.

“My job is to make you laugh flat out for an hour.”

Those laughs often come from Urzila making fun of herself. Her self-deprecating humour – especially in Unqualified Loser – often centring around body image.

“I don’t really tell jokes,” she says. “I tell stories about my life.”

“We all go through the same experience, and this whole virus thing is proof of that. It’s really showing us we’re all going through the same thing.

“People laugh at the stuff they can relate to. If you’ve seen, heard or felt it you’re going to laugh at it.

“[Body image] is such a big thing, there’s not one human being on the planet, regardless of what they look like, who doesn’t have a hang up.

“We all have an issue with one part of ourselves. You could look at someone and say, ‘you’re perfect’ and they will say ‘I’ve got this weird droopy butt cheek’. Yes, we need to cut other people some slack, but also we need to cut ourselves some slack.”

When she comes to Christchurch, her “home away from home” as her mother and sister live here, she says her show – originally planned to be performed in July – will look at another universal experience: modern rage.

“As a society we’re angrier than ever, especially after we’ve survived something. In Christchurch after the earthquakes people were angry…and we’ll see it now after the virus, too.

“I think the world is going to suffer from PTSD after the virus because they had no outlet. Everything around you is facilitated to help your day go easier and smoother.”

She explains how humans used to have an outlet, doing household work like chopping firewood, now our rage stays put – until we get on the internet.

While that’s where the show’s spoilers end, Urzila promises attendees, “…just a great laugh”.

“There’s no life lessons to take away from it – just watch it, laugh and have a good time.”

Sounds like the perfect medicine for our times.

Urzila Carlton is scheduled to perform at the Christchurch Town Hall on December 10. Get your tickets from Live Nation.


 

All about Ashburton


We catch up with what’s happening in our favourite little southern spot

 


Marty Down Under – NZ Harvest Farmers Bash (South Island)
Date: 7 March
Location: 160 Main Street, Methven, Ashburton District (Mount Hutt Memorial Hall)

Marty Mone has many titles; singer-songwriter, performer, agricultural contractor and trucker. Uniquely in a category of his own, this singer from Castleblaney is heading to little ol Ashburton as a part of his Marty Down Under tour.


Evening with Lance Burdett
Date: 9 March
Location: Hotel Ashburton

If you’re a TED talk fanatic and wished there were more events like it in New Zealand, then we have a solution for you. Lance Burdett is a leader in his field and a safety, wellness and resilience expert. He’s worked with the police, the military, emergency services, prisons and even the FBI. Get a better understanding on how the human brain deals with pressure and handles situations. Leave feeling enriched with knowledge.


International Comedy Magician: Brendan Dooley
Date: 13 March
Location: Ashburton Trust Event Centre

Who doesn’t love to laugh? Combine that with a bit of magic and you’ve got a family-friendly event that has become an audience favourite worldwide. With ‘NZ’s Top Comedy Magician Award’ in his back pocket, it’s hard to deny this is an act that you must see.


 

A grand palaver!


Local comedic favourite Shay Horay presents his latest busker’s baby – Palaver Grand. With a handful of showbiz buddies, in the style of Graham Norton, riotous banter and sparing of wit will entrap the audience in the Spiegeltent on 14 February. The two-hour show promises hearty belly laughs.

 

Photographer: DEAN MACKENZIE

 

It’s for one night only and it’s going to be one heck of a line-up,” he says.

Shay is best known at the World Buskers Festival as Rubber Band Boy and, in 2019, packed the house with busker show The Revolver Club.

He recently hosted his inaugural Palaver chat shows in Lyttleton’s intimate Wunderbar – delving into the minds of colourful kiwi celebrities, one on one. Peter Rowley, legendary funny man and co-writer/sidekick for the Billy T James Show, was one of his victims.

“Shay’s a great smooth-talking, cool, good-looking guy,” Peter says.

“The show was sensational. He delved into drawers from the back of my mind that I never knew existed!”

He will be under the microscope once more for Palaver Grand, uniting with an eclectic cast of four on the couch – in front of a much grander audience.

Other guests for the R18 show include favourite television host and comedian Dai Henwood, actor Jonny Brugh, aka Deacon the Vampire, of film What we do in the Shadows fame, and from Daredevil Chicken Club from USA – sensational improvisers and regular busker act. House band Lawrence Arabia will entertain.

“These are all people I’ve loved performing with in the past,” Shay says.

“Palaver means to talk unproductively at length – exactly like the open and free-flying nature of the show.

None of it is scripted, I just cut and edit a loose script as it goes on.

These are stories the audience wouldn’t normally get to hear – personal information and funny bits. And because it’s from the horse’s mouth, it must be true!”

As the Rubber Band Boy, Shay has smashed two Guinness World records for the most rubber bands strapped to a human face, and took the stretchy show to 30 countries.

He asked a plastic surgeon if it was OK.

“It was a great thing for my skin, he assured me, and would probably keep me looking younger!”

Hailing from Geraldine, he cut his comedic teeth at Burnside High School, where his parents sent their talented son to for the renowned drama department.

In 1996, while still a student, he hit busker bigtime.

Now a quarter of a century later, he’s just turned 40. “I’m over the hill now – so I’ve got to start ticking off all the boxes.”

He lives in Lyttelton with Riley the dog, who also has a few talented tricks.

Shay’s a wicket keeper for Heathcote Cricket Club, where he also volunteers.

Always having a side-splitting project on the go, he recently starred as butcher, florist and masseuse in NZ on Air shortlisted The Woolston Complex, filmed at The Tannery.

Aspiring to launch Palaver as a live-audience TV series, he loves the concept of a chat show.

“There’s nothing on TVNZ like it at the moment. It is closest in format to This Is Your Life”.

Except this show will be a grand palaver of life’s more funnier follies.


 

The Court Theatre

Something fishy in the city: The Court Theatre’s latest comedy ‘The Biggest’ will get you laughing hook, line, and sinker

Calling all fisherfolk – it’s time to call it a day; throw the small ones back, reel in your line, remove your waders and swap your tackle for your tux, ‘cos The Court has caught the best catch yet and you don’t want to miss any of the action!

The Court Theatre

Described as a small town, good Kiwi comedy, The Biggest promises a night of entertainment and laughter as we follow the escapades of Poppa, Pat and Mick in their quest to land the biggest fish, and thereby win their mate Stu a replacement boat for the one he wrote off.
It’s a great plan… except for two small problems – their collective lack of fishing skills and no actual means to catch the fish.
Written by award-winning playwright Jamie McCaskill, this hilarious, huge-hearted new comedy is a story of tough Māori and Pakeha men navigating life in small-town Aotearoa.
The cast is top-notch, with renowned Kiwi actor Mark Hadlow playing Stu; Rob Lloyd as Poppa; Phil Grieve as Pat, and Apirana Taylor as Mick. Nick Dunbar and Juanita Hepi play Jan and Cassie, respectively.
Directed by Ross Gumbley, The Court Theatre’s Artistic Director, The Biggest opens 16 June and runs through to 14 July.
For ticketing information visit courttheatre.org.nz. Book online or call The Court Theatre Box Office 03-963 0870.