REVIEW: Lucy Roche and Ray O’Leary: Young, Dumb and Full of Comedy (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Rachael Longshaw-Park

[Moments of Gold]

Lucy Roche and Ray O’Leary are two up and coming comedians who have already made quite a name for themselves across Auckland and Wellington. Lucy Roche caught the eye of Auckland comedy fans when she won the RAW Comedy Quest in 2016, the following year Roche went on to win Most Offensive Gag in the 2017 Comedy Guild Awards, and she was also nominated for Best Show in the 2017 Wellington Comedy Awards. Ray O’Leary also made waves in the last two years winning Best Newcomer at the 2016 Wellington Comedy Awards and was a Billy T James Award Nominee in 2017. Both comedians have a lot of praise under their belt and the potential to pull together a tight one-hour show.

The format is relatively simple, half an hour a piece, no gimmicks or narratives, just good old-fashioned stand-up comedy in a venue that edges on cramped rather than cosy.  Roche begins the hour, attempting to warm up the crowd with some loose back and forth banter, but the audience is cold, and she struggles to get them on side. It’s a tricky thing to navigate as a comedian when your audience gives you about as much enthusiasm as a dead fish, but Roche pushes through and gets to the goods. Where Roche falters on riffing with her audience she shows promise in her prepared material. Roche’s strength lies in the juxtaposition of her demure and sweet character and the straight-talking attitude and lack of social boundaries. However, Roche needs to learn to hold her space and trust her material more for it to land successfully. With more confidence and refinement of her onstage persona, Roche has the potential to be a very clever and slick comedian.

In the second half, O’Leary shows us what a confident comedian can look like, he holds his own both in the moments of laughter and in the moments of awkward silence. His refusal to break eye contact with the audience allows people to shift through the layers of discomfort and circle around back to find the laughter again. O’Leary’s onstage persona is strong and consistent, and yet nonthreatening enough that he can flirt with risky material. O’Leary enjoys testing his audiences for reactions, utilising great timing and repetition jokes. This is a comedian who understands the fundamentals of comedy performance and make good of these conventions. His set wanders from dry observations about politics to more personal strife, but he has a loose structure that solidifies his half hour.

Young, Dumb and Full of Comedy is a light hour of stand up, with more awkward pauses than laughs-a-minute, but all in all that’s a part of the charm. Both are witty, cheeky and have moments of gold in their set. With a new generation of comedians stepping forward and finding their voices, I hope to see both O’Leary and Roche solidify themselves at the front of the crowd.

Lucy Roche and Ray O’Leary play Q Cellar until 12 May. 

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