REVIEW: Le Comique (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth

Hosted by Marcel Lucont

[Merde Oui!!!]

Le Comique definitely offers an eclectic mix of comedic performances during this 2 ½-hour-show.  The charming and hilarious caricature of a Frenchman, Marcel Lucont is fabulous at the helm as he keeps us entertained between acts.  He also has the uncanny knack of sucking in the audience, endearing himself more and more as the night progresses. Lucont was absolutely on point from the get-go, and was extremely quick off the mark with the comebacks he dished out to his guests of the night.

Interestingly, despite the French sounding title, the only thing Frenchy about Le Comique was the laconic, sarcastic, observational interludes of Lucont.  The rest of the line-up, as per the programme, included a clowning comedy, a double music act (with lots to say), an anarchist hotel room cook, a bizarre ‘lesson in theatre’ and a truly profound artist – all enhanced by the lovely three piece band, Orlando Washington.  The band’s on-stage presence throughout the show definitely added another dimension which was a breath of fresh air, as opposed to the more common audio tracks that sometimes accompany comedy acts.  The programme also tantalisingly promised “…and more”, which in tonight’s performance included stand-up acts from New Zealand and Wales.

Rose Matafaeo kicked off the proceedings and raised some laughs but, whilst tempting us with some promising sounding subjects she never quite got into her stride to capture the audience.  Although I suspect she may possibly have shot herself in the foot at the kick-off by alluding to some mediocre reviews recently in Oz.

2015 Billy T winner Hamish Parkinson’s ridiculous antics followed on and tonight’s ‘lucky’ audience members Tara and Chris bore the brunt of Hamish’s oddities on stage.  Although I found his gags a little slapstick, his act as a whole gags exhibited a clever, well thought out routine that resulted in spontaneous craziness.

The hilarious musical duo The Fan Brigade was definitely a favourite in the first half.  The 2014 Best Newcomer award winners’ impeccable timing and poignantly funny/serious songs, covering a hugely ironic range of topics, were excellent – fully complemented by tongue-in-cheek lyrics that sucker-punched us with their hard-hitting social commentary.

Another quite unexpected gem of the culinary skulduggery came in the form British comedian George Egg.  Cleverly harnessing his dissatisfaction with hotel food, and showing all the ingenuity of a cooking savant, Egg tickled us pink with his cooking demo of how to prepare food in a hotel room without having to call room service. I loved his earnest and good natured, straightforward delivery.  I suspect this ingenious combination of dissing hotel room service and cooking demo will, in one fell swoop, will be responsible for future hotel in-room dining revenues taking an inexplicable nosedive.

Following the interval the audience was confronted in numerous ways by Red Bastard.  His name is entirely factually correct.  Part weeble, part plucked chicken, definitely red and certainly bizarre. By the end of his segment most of the audience were in the wrong seats, some had wet ears and everyone was craving his or her own panic room to escape into.  Red Bastard’s hypnotic eyes and ability to put the living fear into us as audience members ensured that he captured everyone’s attention throughout. His power to create unease throughout the time he was on and off stage (among the audience at times) had all of us constantly on tenterhooks.

The Artist formerly known as Jesse Griffin made an entrance that I’m sure will be etched in most of our memories for the foreseeable future.  His ‘cheeky’ rear entrance heralded a clever parody of “What is Art” – brilliantly portrayed with the audience and the onstage band in stitches, so much so they struggled when their time came to play.  His adeptness to take the Mickey out of art and life is done skilfully through well-observed characterisations and hilarious facial expressions which provoked and evoked random responses from the crowd as well as Lucont.

After so much whackiness on stage, last but definitely not least was Welshman Lloyd Langford who shared his observations of staying in a hotel room sans partner.  His ability to be incredibly understated worked a charm on the audience that was well and truly warmed up.  However as Langford rightly pointed out he was an unexpected final act.  Even he was a little confused as to why he had been included in the line-up.  But his modesty belied his talent and great delivery.  And it didn’t hurt that he seemed to be enjoying himself as much as all of us.  Again the band came into their own with some instinctive musical repartee, while Lucont couldn’t help wading in with his observations that seemed to confound and delight Langford and the audience in equal measure.

This mish mash of styles and format was excellently punctuated by Lucont’s Frenchness – all the better that he stayed on stage, sipping his wine on a chaise longue, in-character throughout.  However in my view bookending the show with two more whacky or visually attention grabbing artists, rather than 2 stand-up comedians, might have enriched the experience more – if only to allow the audience to catch their breath.  Clearly and understandably, blatantly promoting their full-length shows, Le Comique is like a mini gala in itself.

As well as lying down between acts, Lucont also displayed a multitude of talents from making up silly ditties on demand, to modern poetry through whimsical observation and sardonic wit.  The sheer arrogance of his Frenchness played well with a NZ crowd, familiar with the old Anglo-French antagonism.  And he milks it with skill and seemingly quiet satisfaction that is offensively appealing.

For the admission price Le Comique offers a generous amount of entertainment that surpassed its billed duration by 45-minutes.  As a one-off show, the line-up will potentially always be a bit hit and miss but on balance this show was definitely a hit for me.

Presented by New Zealand Comedy Trust and Metro Magazine, Le Comique played on 1 May, 7pm at SKYCITY Theatre as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival 2016.  Details see Comedy Festival 

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